We interrupt this epidsode of Tastes Like Battle Chicken’s 3.2 Reactions for a special report: Druid Q&A with Ghostcrawler.
I’ve pulled out the moonkin information specifically, but I highly recommend you read the whole thing.
The complete Druid Q&A is as follows:
Today we continue our class Q&A series with Greg “Ghostcrawler”Street and the development team, in which we’re taking a look at each class and answering some of the top questions brought forward by their communities. Next up, we take a look at the most asked questions from the druid class and find out more about the design philosophy and expectations for the class, as well as what may lie in store for it in the future.
Druid Q&A with the Voice of the Class Design Team, Ghostcrawler
Community Team:We’d like to start things off by asking a question that players oftenask in regard to the very purpose of each class. In this case, we’relooking specifically at the druid, which has one of the widest rangesof play styles in World of Warcraft because of the variety offered fromthe different talent trees.
Q: Where do druids fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?
Ghostcrawler:Much like the paladin and shaman, the original World of Warcraft druid was intended to be a healer for end-game content. Bears could tank Upper Blackrock okay. But honestly, nobody took cats, bears or moonkin very seriously at level 60. In Burning Crusade, this changed a little.Bears could tank a lot more content, and might have even been overpowered in the endgame if it weren’t for Sunwell Radiance. Cats were probably underpowered. You still saw them, but they were theremostly for buffs or because they could slip easily from tanking to dpsin a world before dual-spec. They were great for Zul’Aman for example.There were some great Balance druids, but still a lot of Oomkin. Our philosophy at this point in the game was that hybrid classes needed to give up a lot of their power, especially on the dps-side of things, in order to justify their versatility and massive buffs. In Lich King, we set out to change this and make sure all four types of druid had a PvE role in heroic dungeons and raiding. And yes, this meant four roles, because if we were going to let cats do credible dps or bears be able to tank anything in the game then we wanted players to have to commit to one extreme or the other. You can remain a half-bear,half-cat if you want to as well, but you won’t be as good at either extreme and my experience is players rarely choose that route.
InPvP the story is quite different of course. Once Resto druids got enough tools in Burning Crusade, they were very difficult to counter in Arena matches. Cyclone, Feral Charge and running and hotting made druids frustratingly slippery. We wanted to chill this out a little in Lich King, largely by pushing Feral Charge farther away and making Tree of Life a real option in PvP. Unfortunately, high tree armor and dispel-at-your peril hots have still kept druids difficult to counter in PvP. Feral druids have always had a place in PvP, but were never asdominant as the Resto druids. There is a little bit of a chicken and egg problem here because while some druids only want to PvP as Feral,others were happy to respec to Resto for PvP. Balance druids seemed even less viable than Feral, which is not ideal and something we want to improve. We tend to take a longer view on some of these things than do the players. We’ve had other balance issues that we’ve wanted to address in PvP first, and getting every spec of every class viable has had to take a back seat on occasion.
This is all stuff we knew or figured. Moonkin was nearly laughable in BC, and I can’t even imagine what it was like in vanilla. I’m glad that they realize that making all of our roles viable is important, at least.
Q: What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?
Ghostcrawler:Forms is the big answer. The druid versions are more meaningful than other class equivalents in the game, such as Stances or Presences. One could argue they are too meaningful, because players sometimes don’t want to use any other form but “theirs.”; Perhaps the most unusual facet of the druid forms is that they use three different resource systems depending on the form, and these are not reset when they shift. A leveling druid can shift out of cat form to heal themselves, then shift into bear form while their mana regenerates.
Druids also have a couple of other interesting qualities. They actually fit four distinct roles into the class, even though two of the roles share a talent tree. They have some unusual utility spells, including Revive and Innervate. While druids no longer bring many unique buffs, they still pack a lot of them onto one character. Raids are still happy to get druids because of their benefit to the group. Druids also have unique travel abilities, from Travel, Aquatic, and Flight form, to the Moonglade teleport.
It’s also worth mentioning that druids canbe only one race each on the Horde and Alliance side. They have theleast racial diversity of any class in the game.
I have to say, I think it’s really funny that “Teleport Moonglade” is something that makes us special. Take away the teleport and increase my dps by 300 instead, kk? Not that Teleport Moonglade isn’t useful sometimes, I just think it’s funny that it got a mention alongside Flight Form.
I also don’t necessarily like the direction they’re headed here. I know that a lot of druids are dissatisfied with the fact that you are expected to use a particular form based on your spec, and maybe this is lazy of me, but I don’t want to keep shifting in and out to use different spells. That’s just one more GCD I don’t want to waste.
Community Team:Let’s take a look at the Balance talent tree. Eclipse is a crucial talent for players who are looking to perform a damage dealing role and invest in the Balance tree. There has been a lot of discussion though regarding the gameplay it provides as there is a lot of randomness involved. The buffs to a solar rotation were very well received, but the lunar rotation still has to wait for a critical strike to happen as well as an additional random proc to occur which can lead to some long gaps of nothing happening. Then when these finally fall into place players have complained about threat issues which force them to slowdown or having to move to avoid something which ruins the procs theyhave and significantly hurts their overall damage.
Q: What are our thoughts on how Eclipse is functioning and do we have any plans to change how this talent works?
Ghostcrawler: The goal of the Eclipse talent in the first place was to give moonkin a more dynamic rotation that involved the player paying attention and responding to the environment rather than falling into a monotonous rotation. The Eclipse in 3.2 should less strongly favor one half of the Eclipse over the other since the cooldowns are independent. Ultimately however the problem we are trying to solve is that Wrath and Starfire are just too similar. In PvP you get a little bit of interest out of the fact that they are in different schools, but in PvE by the time talents are factored in, the two spells just become fairly quick (but not instant) nukes and it’s easy to math out which one to use and which one to ignore. Long-term to fix this problem we need to add another spell, separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more, or make one of the other spells, like Moonfire or Insect Swarm, more dynamic. I’ll give a couple of example of caster rotations that “work” in our opinion: Destruction warlocks want to Immolate before they Conflagrate, Frost mages can proc a Brain Freeze and throw out a fast Fireball.
Most of this I concede. Certainly I am one of the many moonkin who have seen lunar rotation have its good days and bad days based on procs and movement (Hodir? Forget about it. I’m usually around 13th; granted, there’s hardly ever a caster in the top 10 for that fight, but still). I have no problem with them giving us a new spell or making MF or IS more dynamic…if they do it the right way. That will remain to be seen. I’m hoping that the Eclipse change in 3.2 is going to be as big as I think it is.
Community Team: Anotheraspect of Balance talent tree that has seen a number of discussionslately is the survivability of Moonkins while in a Player vs. Player setting. Many players agree that they have a very low survivabilityrate and that a spell like Typhoon doesn’t provide enough help toprevent classes like Death Knights and Rogues from doing some seriousdamage to them.
Q: How do we feel Moonkins are doing in PvP and do we have plans to improve their survivability?
Ghostcrawler:We don’t think Moonkins are quite there yet, though we’ll see how they look after 3.2 ships. Some of their problems are not limitations withthe spec so much as they are ramifications in other parts of the PvP environment, such as some classes being able to burst them down too quickly. Of the casters, and as of this writing, only Frost mage sreally seem to be a potent PvP force, but it requires multiple forms of CC and escape mechanisms to get there. We really don’t want to go down the road of every caster needing that many unique tools – it homogenizes the classes and makes the mage tools less compelling. We understand some players are desperate to play Balance inPvP, but our priority is on getting underperforming classes viablebefore we worry about the second or third spec of classes that alreadyhave a strong PvP presence. We’ll get there.
I don’t PvP much, so most of this doesn’t affect me much. I do think that the passion about making classes balanced in PvP detracts from PvE a lot, and not just for druids. Nerfing or buffing for PvP should rarely affect PvE in a dramatic way, in my opinion, but it generally does.
Community Team:Players have also been discussing how they feel the overall playstyle of a Moonkin is just not very exciting. The best damage dealing rotation for them requires very few spells and a deep Balance spell like Starfall doesn’t help them very much.
Q: Are there plans to make any changes to the general spell rotation for deep Balance/Moonkin Druids?
Ghostcrawler:As I mentioned above, we do want to improve the spell rotation of Balance. We think the spells are interesting when considered alone (expect for perhaps Starfire and Wrath) but they don’t necessarily play together in interesting ways. You don’t try to save up a Starfall for example for great synergy with another spell. We have no problems with Starfall itself — it is an AE with smart targeting that doesn’trequire channeling. It is basically just bonus damage. Often players with a gripe about Starfall are wishing that it still proc’ed stuns with Celestial Focus or was a stealth remover. But those uses meantplayers saved Starfall for only those specific situations instead ofusing it when they needed extra damage, which was the original intent.
I don’t have a problem with Starfall as it stands, except for the nervousness I still have from when it was buggy at the beginning of LK and I pulled the entire construct quarter while Starfalling the slimes. I’d be interested to see them make it more dynamic in the way it relates to SF and Wrath, but I hope they don’t go the road of making it too PvP specific. It’s a good, cool, not-too-much headache boost to dps.
Q:Have we considered providing more tanking leather and to prevent extraloot clutter possibly finding ways for Balance and Restoration druidsto use solely cloth item since they often use them already?
Ghostcrawler:No. Druids are a leather-using class. We are just going to have to make three types of leather (melee, ranged and healing). You have to understand that even though we have pushed bears and cats farther apart, we still consider them to be part of the same spec. We can’t get into the business of itemizing for niches within a particular spec or we’re just going to have too many items per tier. I can see the argument for having tanking and dps leather and making the casters usecloth. That’s just a different design and we currently like for certainclasses to be associated with certain types of armor. We like thatdruids look different from say priests or mages (even ignoring the forms thing). We like that we can kit druid tier piece armor to look acertain way.
Also note that if we buffed bear mitigation throughmore tanking-oriented leather that we’d just have to nerf them in otherways. In my experience, most bears end up with “tanking leather” anyway because they want to gem and enchant their bear gear differently. Having one set of gear that you wear as cat or bear isn’t really feasible in Ulduar.
This actually fell more into the feral discussion, but since it affects our gear, it’s relevant. I like leather; I like the armor and the tier set. I’ve been known to wear cloth quite a bit, but I would prefer not to dress like a mage. Of course, the way they’ve been going in LK with the homogenized gear will soon make us all look like clones anyway.
Now just picture us all looking like mages...and scream.
Community Team:Many players have been discussing relics and how they feel they add a lot of clutter to loot tables since they can have a wide margin ofeffectiveness and always have a small number of players able to pickthem up.
Q: Do we have any plans to improve how players obtain relic items such as a relic token?
Ghostcrawler:The alternative to “clutter to loot tables” is that they go on vendors. We view vendors as an absolute last resort. They are there as a hedge against being very unlucky with drops and to give players motivation to do bosses even when that boss no longer drops any upgrades for them.When the best relics are available on vendors, then every druid will have those relics quickly. They essentially just become part of the core identity of the class rather than an upgrade that you get at some point along your progression. The best solution is probably somethingwhere a boss has a 10% (or whatever) chance to drop a relic in additionto its normal loot table.
I didn’t honestly realize there was an issue with relics. Being the only full-time moonkin in our raids, I’ve naturally been defaulted all of the moonkin relics; even Crying Wind is stashed in my bags for the day they make it comprable. Is this a problem? If it is, I don’t think adding a 10% drop rate is going to make much of a difference, especially for ferals and restos, who typically have to share roles with at least another one or two druids. There’s got to be a balance between vendor and rare drop, right?
Community Team: To wrap up this Q&A, here are a couple quick questions from the far corners of druid minds.
Q: Are there any plans for a 310% speed flight form?
Ghostcrawler:At this time we want to keep the 310% flying speed very rare – maybe 5%or less of all players. If we made a flight form that less than 1% ofplayers had access to (since probably less than a tenth of those 5%would be druids) it’s hard to argue that’s a good use of art time.
Meh, I don’t really care. I do think it’s super cool that if you’ve gotten a 310% mount, it will now affect flight form, but I don’t have one, and I’m fine with the current speed.
Q: Do we plans to alter how the GCD works for form changing so that shifting into a form is as easy as shifting out of one?</span>
Ghostcrawler:As I mentioned, long-term we’d love to get druids shifting more often,which means shifting has to be less painful. I don’t know for sure thatchanging the GCD needs to be a part of that, but it could be.
Well, GC, it does. I can tell you right this second that I am anal about my GCD, and if you’re going to want me to shift forms more often without griping too much, you will HAVE to eliminate the GCD, or at least put forms on a separate cooldown.
Q: For the official word, do we have plans to update more druid form models at some point in the future?
Ghostcrawler:I know for a fact that the current Travel Form and Aquatic Form areloathed by the artist who redid bear and cat. We do have plans toupdate additional forms at some point in the future.
WHAT ABOUT MOONKIN?! I agree, by all means, change Aquatic and Travel, they are very, very dated. But c’mon; ferals get snazzy and we get left out? Throw us a bone, man (but not a chicken bone, because that would be offensive).