Yesterday, Blizzard developers working on the next World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor, posted a lengthy thread on what to expect from the game going forward as well as some firm details of changes to expect.
One of the major changes to the game will be the so-called stat squish. Those of you who have played through the multiple World of Warcraft expansions are probably aware, the numbers that the players see in the current expansion pack are almost incomprehensibly large. This is due to the fact that the current level-to-power ratio is on an exponential scale. That is, when a player hits levels 80-90, their power (and the power of creatures) increases exponentially whereas from levels 1-80 the increase in power per level is a linear increase. In Warlords of Draenor the power of the player will no longer have this exponential aspect, rather, the entire leveling process will see a linear increase in power.
However, the developers are stressing that this is not a nerf to characters, rather it is just a paring down of numbers. The example that they give is that if your character currently hits an enemy for 450,000 out of 3,000,00 (15% of health), it will now hit an enemy for 30,000 out of 200,000 (still 15%), so in essence, the stat squish is really just a way to make numbers less astronomical and more comprehensible.
Warlords of Draenor will also include one of the most comprehensive overhauls of the ability system that the game has ever seen. This is the aspect of the game that many people are holding their breath over, with elitists joking (actually worrying) that the game will just be two buttons and jumping as fast as possible, and casuals arguing that there is such an absurd amount of abilities that they do not know where to begin.
The developers seem acutely aware that people are worried about this making the game absurdly easy because they mention it about 50 times in the post. Actually it was about 5 times, sorry, I forgot to pare down my statistics. Anyway, the developers have suggested some rather radical changes to the ability system. Before I go into too much detail, they are in fact correct when they admit that many of the game’s abilities are left entirely unused or are so obscure that they are only used by a fraction of the players.
The largest of the changes is that developers intend to remove many of the temporary power buffs (aka “cooldowns”) from the game. Developers assert that this also goes along with one of their goals for the expansion, which is the reduction of cooldown stacking. Classes that have several of these abilities are expected to either have them removed, or merged into a single ability. Additionally they intend to remove many abilities from the game as previously mentioned (no firm specifics on this yet), and do some housekeeping things like combining passive abilities to remove spell book clutter.
Some of the changes previously outlined are a welcome sight. When a player opens their spell book there is a massive amount of information that is clearly the result of a game having a decade of upgrades and changes without much pruning. However, their proposed changes to how cooldowns work is a cause for concern. One of the most fun aspects of the game is being able to use a cooldown and absolutely destroy a target. It is a mechanism that has been in the game since its inception in 2004. If the developers declare total war on the idea of cooldowns and entirely remove them it will make the game extremely static and somewhat boring because it will remove the moment of “if I don’t go crazy now I will lose this fight”. If the changes are merely a reduction so that a player can have say 1-3 buffs instead 1-15, then it will be a more palatable change and additionally it will be in line with their new philosophy of keeping the player power-to-level ratio linear rather than exponential.
In the last section of the post, developers also detail some rather extreme changes to the player vs. player system of the game. The amount of character impairing effects are going to be drastically reduced going forward and there will be a complete removal of disarm from the game. Also, diminishing-returns will shared by significantly more abilities and there will absolute removal of many character controlling effects such as hunters’ scattering shot. The complete list of changes can be read on the previously linked post and the post at the end of this article.
As a person who used to play World of Warcraft at competitive live tournaments, these changes are rather unsettling. Many top players have argued for a long, long time that the game is too simple and more importantly too accessible for the average player and the changes outlined in this article seem to make that case even stronger. However, it is still too early to tell just how far these changes will go. It is possible that the developers will find the perfect balance of trimming the fat and keeping complexity, but it is all too possible that they will take the changes too far and amputate the game, rather than cut it with surgical precision.
In addition to the official developers post, two Blizzard developers also posted many specific changes to their twitter accounts that can be found summarized here.