In the run-up to Patch 5.3′s launch this week, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street and Brian “Holinka” Holinka, among other senior WoW designers, have been making the round on various fansites to preview the patch and explain their thinking behind many of the changes in store.
The Arena Junkies interview with GC and Holinka, which posted over the weekend, includes a few highly rogue-relevant bits, as does today’s interview with Gary Gannon and Olivia Grace on a special episode of gamebreaker.tv’s Legendary. Notable roguey excerpts are copied below. (In the case of the Gamebreaker interview, the transcription is mine, since the source is a video. The AJ transcript excerpts will be copy-pasted as-is from AJ’s site.)
The Find Weakness Change: Making Spells Different in PvE/PvP (Arena Junkies)
(I ranted about this one early this morning.)
Sam: PvE and PvP changes seem to collide very often, do you guys believe that balancing both may require a lot of specific PvP and PvE only changes? An example would be Find Weakness in 5.3.
Brian: Yes, and when we do it. Find weakness is a great example where PvE needed a buff and it would’ve cost big problems to PvP. We keep it in mind and Frost bomb is another example. We try not to do it too often, it’s a lot of things to keep track of. We’re the designers and people on Arena Junkies are really passionate players that really keep up on all the changes, but a lot of players are not. To ask our general player base that your spell does this and it does half damage or 25% or something like that, it’s really not something we want to do too often. Especially hey we want eviscerate to hit 10% less on players. That’s really inconsistent and a tough thing. We usually do it when it’s really a significant thing such as Find Weakness is 50% less and Frost bomb is 40% less.
Greg: There’s also this persistent, I’ll just call it a myth, that if we just bite the bullet and make 2 versions of every spell suddenly we’ll have class balance nailed and it’ll never be a problem again. I’m pretty confident if we went ahead and split sub rogues into 2 abilities on every ability with different damage numbers you’ll still see players saying why they can’t just tune down this one ability that’s costing pvp burst problem. In other words players will still want us to make changes even if we have the numbers split up, I don’t think it’ll suddenly make players feel their class is viable in every situation
Why Rogues Are Being Nerfed (Arena Junkies)
Sam: In the history of changes a lot of nerfs and buffs are really large, which usually changes the “balance” of one class from one to another such as warrior and rogues last patch. Warriors were arguably the top notch class in 5.2 but kind of went to the bottom barrel. Rogues basically had the opposite happen to them. Do you guys think smaller changes would be more ideal or how would you look at it?
Brian Holinka: Obviously when we can we would like to make smaller changes. I think what you saw with rogues in 5.2 was that there were a lot of calls for their survival to be improved. So we made Prep baseline, took Cloak off, so they weren’t constantly unpeelable for 12 seconds, and moved it to a short CD. I think these were good changes, but what pushed rogues over the edge was we tried to create some talents to make them more attractive and give them variety. Shuriken Toss, Mark for Death, and Cloak and Dagger, those were all probably a little bit too much. 5.3 Rogues were really about reigning in those talent changes. We kept the survivability changes the same but we wanted to reign in the unpeelable Cloak and Dagger, the ranged play style of Shuriken Toss, and those were I think really smart changes. We didn’t also nerf Mark for Death and a bunch of other changes. The Find Weakness change was mainly for burst on higher armor targets. We thought that wasn’t appropriate. We made some changes in 5.2 that didn’t mean to be buffs, but for talent choices to be more interesting and we needed to reign those in.
Revisiting Rogue Talents for PvP: 5.2 and 5.3 (Legendary)
Gary Gannon: How do you feel the [PvP class] balance has been in 5.2?
Brian Holinka: I think there were some situations where we were trying to make some talents more interesting from 5.1 to 5.2. For example [...] there was a rogue ability called Versatility, and it was not really seeing much play. So we created a new one called Marked for Death. In other situations, like, for instance: [...] Preparation was another ability that we actually thought all rogues could benefit from having. So there we had to create a new one, Cloak and Dagger.
So, we were doing a lot of talent work, and in some places, we just overshot a bit. We felt like it made some classes a little bit too good and the talents were just a little bit too good, so we tried to rein those in.
We base our balance feedback on a lot of factors: We look at representations; distribution of ratings across all specs and classes; how people are faring within our team, how they’re playing; we talk to some of the very high level players on a very constant basis. We try and get a sense of where problems lie, and then we try and fix things that we feel are big problems for the overall gameplay of the game — where it just makes everybody’s life a little bit less fun — and we try and affect those.
There’s situations where maybe you can say this or that has made this class even more competitive, but there’s also situations where this talent is just one-shotting people. So we have to look at that, and we have to understand that it’s made the game less fun to play.
Our goals are basically: try and make specs and classes competitive; try and make the overall gameplay environment fun; and then, we wanna say, try and make some talents interesting, and try and make rotations interesting and fun to play. Sometimes we make changes that are a little bit out of priority there, but that’s generally what we try to do. And I think, going in from 5.2 to 5.3, that was a lot of our goal, was to kind of rein in some of the things that got out of control.
Though these three chunks were especially rogue-directed, large sections of both interviews are likely to be of great interest to any PvPing rogue, so be sure to read/tune in to them for a more complete discussion of upcoming changes — and some changes potentially in store for 5.4 and beyond.