Class Fantasy, people, was the shining beacon that Activision Blizzard decided would redefine class development going into Legion. It would, for the first time in over a decade, define what it meant to be your character. It wouldn’t just be about picking a class based on what a Guide told you was best, but instead you’d have a series of spells and abilities that would truly make you feel as if you were an Outlaw Rogue, or a Beast Mastery Hunter. It was part of the means by which the Expansion was ‘sold’ to new players, but there was a catch. If you didn’t identify with the version of ‘fantasy’ that was being presented to you? The whole thing ended up as an elegantly constructed lie. In amongst the legions of players overjoyed at change, a small number of players quietly died inside and stopped playing.
Fantasy is a potent tool to not wield with consideration.
Of course, some people would never be happy. As time went on in Alpha and then Beta, it became apparent that what the designers considered as ‘fantasy’ and what long term players who had grown upwith certain classes grasped as the same was, in many cases, poles apart. To take an example that I’m close to: Hunters and traps were always going to be a problem. Removing the only CC that was 100% reliable and relocatable might make sense if you have a PvP hat on, but really it has ended up making many who relied on this utility feeling worthless. I’ll admit, I was one of them, but I’ve reached a point where I’m less willing to get angry at in game changes than I ever used to be, because this radical shift in approach needed to be give a chance.
The key to this desire to not condemn is simple: this is still an idea that’s less than a year old. How will designers ever get a sense of what is right and wrong if the moment something vital is tweaked, everyone’s toys go out of the pram? It is neither helpful nor productive to pour scorn on an idea which, in many places, has cause the renaissance of a classes fortunes and interests, yet that’s what some people are still doing, as if telling designers what asshats they are is ever going to get the changes desired. Then, this morning, this tweet ended up in my timeline and I found myself realising just how fucking useless Twitter can be sometimes for trying to make things better:
This is not a question with a 140 character answer, Mr Feasel, and you should know better. For me however, working on only a few hours sleep, it ended up causing what ended up as a surprising rant on what pets as a Hunter in my head have been reduced to:
My bile was a surprise, but what being a Hunter means to me is no longer about picking and choosing a pet for a particular situation, because abilities have pretty much been neutered out of the equation. Fuck, there’s one spec THAT DOESN’T EVEN USE THEM ANY MORE FFS so there’s an argument that all those different styles of companion for one third of a Class is really too much. I get increasingly annoyed too at the joy when a Dev tweets there’s a new family of skins to collect, but don’t expect an increase Stable sizes to accommodate it. This isn’t pet collecting, you’re supposed to do Battle Pets for that, don’t you know? That’s normally the moment when I realise I’ve succumbed to Warcraft’s Dark Side and go listen to music or write, because I used to care a fuck of a lot about this class but now, I value my sanity more, because once you grasp your idea of ‘fantasy’ is diametrically opposite to the people making the game, you get a choice.
You either accept the change or you do something else.
When fantasy goes bad, it can destroy your love of the thing you once used as inspiration. It removes a portion of your innocence and wonder, and it reduces play styles to numbers. That’s where we are now: all that really seems to matter to Activision Blizzard on certain days is the maths: why else would all these theorycrafters be employed by the company to crunch numbers otherwise? Where’s the hires that focus on aesthetics or blue sky solutions? Nope, can’t do that, this is about efficiency and finding the right skillsets… but what if such qualities cannot be precisely defined in such a way? Nobody’s interested any more in employing a dreamer or a speculative thinker, and that’s what I think could be needed here, someone who is allowed permission to work outside the numbers. Even though Warcraft cannot survive without the relentless push of progression, you need imagination that’s not fuelled by the desire to succeed.
What this game could use at this juncture is less definition, and not more.
Now I’ve gotten this out of my system? Nothing changes. I don’t now storm off in a huff, but realise I made an important connection: content is great and all, and I’m really happy that exists. Now, I think this game needs less of something, but is that control? Am I looking for the ability to be autonomous where it does not exist? Is all of this an indicator that however hard the designers try, it is effectively impossible to make everybody the same without fundamentally destroying what the whole point of this game has always been: to win. It does not matter what you offer, people want the most DPS, the best HPS and unkillable Tanks. They desire these because to play this game ‘properly’ is not about relying on Class fantasy or aesthetics, it is having the best numbers.
Until that basic philosophy changes, everything else is always gravy.