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World of Warcraft General Article: The Talent System 2.0

By Garrett Fuller on October 26, 2011

This week at BlizzCon we got the chance to see some major changes coming to World of Warcraft with the new expansion Mists of Pandaria. Of all the changes coming to the game like the Monk and Pandaren playable race, one of the more extreme changes is how the WoW team is tackling the talent system. There are major changes coming to the system and players will have a lot of new choices to make when the expansion goes live. We’ll try to outline how the talent changes will work and more importantly how it will impact the game play and choices for players.

Talents are changing drastically and the team first outlined the pros and cons of the talent system. The pros outlined as removing some junk talents from the trees with Cataclysm. This set up gave more choices to players but still not enough. The cons for the talents were that players still ran the risk of skipping core talents; also the team did not remove enough of the junk talents. This still lead to cookie cutter builds that every class needed to use for raids and to stay competitive. The team also saw that there was no true hybridization with talents. Players were not happy with the system in its current form so the WoW team worked on a massive overhaul.

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The team mapped out the player breakdown into three areas: Class abilities, Spec Abilities and Talents. Players choose their spec at level ten. The big news on this topic is that WoW is doing away with Talent points and ranks. The new system allows you to choose a talent every fifteen levels. Once you reach that stage you will have three choices. They are working hard to make the system have no mandatory talents, in other words every talent has value and the player can decide how to use them. Also you can change talents in the game as easily as you change glyphs.

They are really working on making the talents a very simplified system. When designing the new Challenge dungeons it seem like they are testing the idea of not having the holy trinity of classes needed to run through the instance. This change lends itself to the changes in talents so players are not left out of dungeons due to their spec or design.

Some players may see this as a further casual approach to the game, however revamping the talent system has always been an important part of WoW and several approaches have been tried. Pandaria will bring in the most extreme changes, but the team feels very strongly about players being able to have more creative choices with their talents. The pitfalls of the early talent tree was that every player had to have the same spec to remain competitive in the dungeon raids,instances, and even PVP. This new approach to talents will really shake up the systems in the game and help more casual players get involved while other more hardcore players will still have the choices to make to spec their characters as needed.

From all the changes coming with Pandaria it seems like WoW is taking a much more friendly approach to over all game play and stepping away from the hardcore designs that you needed for your character. Creating talent trees can get ugly quickly and while many of us who played on day one were able to hybrid spec at least for a while. The core systems for each tree really took over the end game. Because you had every class playing under the same talent spec for any particular tree it took away from the creativity of the character design. With these changes the team really hopes players will make some hard choices about what talents they choose but also give them the freedom to play their character the way they wanted.

I am not sure how this system will work out over all and how it will affect the classes. It will be interesting to see if it does add more creativity to how characters are played by taking away still more junk talents and cookie cutter builds.  If it’s similar to Diablo’s new system of runes and skills, it may work out alright. For now we will just have to wait and see.

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