I’m going to start with an assumption;

If you read my blog, you also read MMO Champion, WoW.com, or the main forums, and are plugged into the “WoW news” scene, such as it is.

If not, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ll get the gist of what’s going on with Druids soon enough.

The proposed Feral changes, such as they were, were pretty good.

Plenty of stuff made me smile in the announcement, not least of which was the announcement of a new AoE threat/damage boosting ability, Thrash.

That’s nice, I think it’ll be fun in execution. However, once again, I refer you to a previous post, wherein I pointed out we have no idea how any change will actually work. The assumption would be that adding a new ability, Thrash, would add to Threat generation. However, in execution, if they dial down Swipe’s Threat/Damage as they add Thrash, balance them out so we need to use both together to equal today’s Swipe… well, see what I mean about not making silly assumptions as to how things will work until we actually get the game changes in our furry little paws? 

What mostly brought a smile to my face was the way the tanking announcements, in general and across the board, all said that the intended goal was to balance damage dealing capabilities across all tank types. To have tools in place so that if any one tank class gets ahead of the pack, they can reign them in, or if one lags behind, they can pull that one up by the bootstraps.

The concern I have is that the term they use is damage, not Threat, when talking about balance. I know that many tanks worry about damage generation comparisons with other tanks, and that there has been a lot of complaining about the high damage output of some tank classes.

I don’t care nearly as much about damage output balance as I do about threat. I really hope that when they are talking about balancing damage amongst the tank classes, they also mean threat output.

The main point to take away from tank announcements is that they are trying to change the underpinnings of the abilities and mechanics so that they have easier tools at hand to balance the classes when they decide it’s needed.

I imagine that’s one of the reasons that the Paladin review is so delayed. Paladins have a very fine tuned, race car style performance when it comes to threat and damage generation. Messing with any of it is going to cause a lot of headaches for all concerned. 

As far as Bears go, with Vengeance, and damage reduction and Thrash and everything, it looks to me that Bears will do about as well as could be expected. Tools are being added to increase the complexity/diversity of the Bear playstyle, increase our group utility (Movement speed buff? Cool!), improve AoE threat generation (hopefully with Thrash) and keep our gear diversity intact.

The only fly in the ointment would be the lack of an announced ranged Silence pull, while in their infinite wisdom they gave Rogues (Rogues?) a Smoke Bomb to force ranged spellcasters to close to melee.

Did I actually expect to get a ranged Silence pull? No, I did not. Bears have so many other tools from Cat using the same gear and (mostly) same spec, PLUS self-Heals, that I figured, from a PvP standpoint, there was just no freaking way we’d get one.

If you don’t like it, play a Pally, right? We’re Bears. Toughen up, sunshine!

I will add that while I like the Smoke Bomb idea for our Ninja leather-wearing brothers and sisters, if you can do that, c’mon guys… hows about giving a Bear a fart cloud? Although, come to think of it, that would be more along the order of a Fear, wouldn’t it?

Hmmm. Actually, a fart cloud that stuns enemies in an AoE would be fun. I bet they can’t do it because you wouldn’t be able to put in diminishing returns for the effect…

Oh well, lesson here is, Bears, make sure your best friend is a Rogue, I guess. Good thing I married one. :)

As far as Cats go, they said that there would be no new earthshaking, wonderful new spells. They like the rotation so much, they don’t want to fiddle with it. However, they WILL extend debuff durations and things, so there is a slightly looser window to get each ability off that depends on a previous debuff being in effect on the target, making the rotation a little more forgiving to a slight blunder.

Restoration Druids aren’t expecting to get any new spells either; Blizzard thinks the ones we have fill all the required niches.

I can feel the desire for new shinies, but I honestly don’t need something new just to have a happy button added to my bar. I look at all the excess buttons on some of my classes, like all the buttons for abilities my Mage alt almost never uses, and figure that I’m good with having a tight group of abilities that all work well together.

I don’t play a Moonkin, personally, but I love the form. I would like to say one thing about their new spell.

Why, oh why, do Druids get to be the ones bringing the magic shrooms? Now there’s nothing for it but that I go grind Sporregar rep to Exalted so I can wear the Magic Mushroom purple tabard, proclaiming my hippy druggie status to the world. 

Okay, so I’m laughing on the inside. Trust a Moonkin to look at the enemy and think, “What you really need, what you really need right now, is to get high. Here, have one of these. Oh my, look at the pretty stars. And the lights! The beautiful, glowing, pretty lights. Oh, wait, those are my spell effects as I blow you the hell up…”

Lets move on to what is shaping up to be the big drama of the teasers; Treeform on cooldown.

If you follow Restoration Druid blogs to any extent, you might have noticed a stirring in the branches, as the winds of discontent blow through the community.

Down and dirty, they’re planning on changing Treeform from being a discrete form that Druids shift into, and make it similar to a long cooldown buff. 

This changes it from being the form you are in while being a Healer fully specced into Restoration, and makes it more a “For 30 seconds you are in the form of a Tree, and healing power/whatever is increased by X amount. 2 minute cooldown.”

Or 5 minute cooldown. Or something.

The point is, it goes from being what it is now, a shapeshifting form exclusive to the deep Restoration tree, and reduces it to just another spell in the rotation. 

Now, Druids are unlikely to get a lot of outside sympathy for being unhappy about this. From the outside looking in, it resembles a simple complaint about a cosmetic change, and Ghostcrawler has already replied, saying that if Druids are so adamant about having a Tree form, they could add a Minor Glyph that would leave the Treeform appearance up all the time, but would leave the new mechanic unchanged.

I’d like to try and present a Druid’s viewpoint that cuts to the core of the matter without silly drama.

World of Warcraft has, as a large part of it’s charm, both a romantic and a mathematic side of the game.

The mathematic is represented by all things analytical; stats and mechanics and DPS curves and damage reduction by armor with diminishing returns, and all of the other things that allow a dedicated theorycrafter an opportunity to min/max their performance.

The romantic is represented by the graphical style, the non-combat pets, the rare and exotic pets Hunters can tame, the varying landscapes and cultures to visit, the tabards to wear, the mounts to ride, the clothing and gear that changes your entire appearance, the view of the tumultous sky over the mana engines of Netherstorm and the peacefulness of fishing the pools while watching the Sun set across the sea in Wetlands.

The game is not just stats and power curves and progression. It is not just preparing for, and engaging in, battle. If it were, it would be Squad Leader with a bare bones graphics interface on a Hex map.

It has those elements, that depth of complexity. But it also has the whimsical, the romantic, the things that bring the game world alive and make it so much more to a player than a set of stats on a cardboard placard or a token on a map.

The way the game is designed, and part of the continued draw of the game for me is the extent to which I can develop an emotional attachment to the characters.

It is, at it’s heart, what differentiates an MMORPG from an RTS; that I have a single character whose story throughout the World of Warcraft has some measure of escapist value for me.

Where the problem here comes in, is that from what Ghostcrawler has said, the developers are approaching this issue with only one concern; stats and effects during raids and combat.

Where the players that have Restoration Druids are coming from, is mainly from the point of view of any player with an emotional investment in the character they play.

To us, our Treeform is an ability that shows our heart is in healing. Much like Moonkin form, it is far enough down the Restoration Talent Tree that you don’t just take it as part of a hybrid spec. You have to be intending to Heal as your main function, you have to really dedicate yourself to being a supporting healer to be a Tree.

I know I’m only speaking for myself on this, but to me, I don’t see the lack of offensive spellcasting abilities in Treeform as a detriment to playing my class; I see it as a mark of honor and distinction, and symbol of my dedication to keeping your ass alive.

I don’t ever find myself railing at the cruel fates that have prevented me from casting DPS spells from Treeform. In the rare occasions that I throw down a Hurricane, mostly during the Shifted phase of the wraith boss in Violet Hold to kill the adds, I accept dropping out of Treeform as the cost of dealing damage, and I return to Treeform as soon as my brief foray into causing pain is over.

I know that Ghostcrawler seems to feel that the Treeform mechanic doesn’t add anything to the game, it doesn’t bring anything special to the Restoration Druid’s table.

It does.

What it brings is Treeform itself. What he just doesn’t seem to grasp is that Treeform, for a Restoration Druid, is a goal in and of itself. Not something to be pity Glyphed, but an outwards symbol of a Druid Healer’s resolve.

I truly hope that the developers that are trying to balance this incredibly complex game for raiding and PvP in cataclysm are reminded that there is a lot more to the game then stats.

At the end of the day, what keeps us all playing this rather than Star Fleet Battles on a MUD is our personal involvement with our characters. Our emotional investment in the class that we play.

Character involvement can be a fragile thing, and I truly hope that, before making such a significant change, the devlopers take a big step back and ask themselves; is what we expect to gain by making this change worth all that we WILL lose in terms of player goodwill?

60 Responses to “So, Druids gonna see some change, huh?”
  1. anothertank@tank.com says:

    @niceas – That is basically my point. If they make it so that druids can heal encounters without tree form then tree form is an option talent for restro druids. And it will have to be an attractive option to get people to spend a talent point on it. Increasing healing is not going to be that attractive it will probably have to be a mana efficiency/regen change to make it worth grabbing.

    It is not like DPS. For most encounters, there is no such thing as too much DPS. Being able to bump up your DPS occasionally is a good thing. Conversely you can have too much healing(aka overhealing). If you can heal through an encounter without a healing buff then adding in a buff doesn’t help you at all.

    In any event, I still see the “healers can go OOM while healing” colliding in an ugly way with the “healers can DPS some in PvE” concept. And allowing restro druids the ability to DPS is the main reason given for the tree form change.

  2. niceas says:

    @BBB – don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that everyone on here is going to be a ditto head, or anything like that – more that people will read your blog because they are inclined to enjoy reading what you have to say, thusly they are going to represent the portion of the population who are more likely to be inclined to agree with what you are saying. I’m not saying that you give people a hard time if they disagree with you or anything like that – just that the demographic that you are likely to attract are those that are more inclined to agree with you in general :)

    @anothertank@tank.com – By changing druidic healing such that ToL form is required, it seems like they are talking about changing the “ToL” spell or whatever it is into something akin to a holy crap button – something you use when you know massive damage is incoming, or what-have-you. I suspect that we will see something like Icy Veins but for HoTs. I realise that we aren’t necessarily disagreeing with each other – I was simply responding to your post because when I originally read it I was left wondering if you were questioning the viability of healing in caster form after the change.

  3. niceas says:

    Edit for my last post – it should read “By changing druidic healing such that ToL form is NO LONGER required…

  4. Sahele says:

    When I read this post I really felt something in my heart. I still don’t know what way I’m swinging. I have more then once thought it would be nice to actually see more of my tauren form instead of having to shift every time but I must say Tree of Life holds something special for me. I still remember when I first got it in Zul’Farrak and I loved it from start. I realized what I was feeling when I read the very true words of the allmighty BBB “but when it’s time to get serious, a Druid shifts”. Just having the ability to shift into Tree of Life shows us to be very dedicated healers and when someone sees a Tree they used to be able to know that said Tree was serious about healing. (I just realized dual-spec allready have removed some of that magic, but it’s still in there for me)
    I then swinged a little in the other way when I read Thom’s post about only switching to Tree when there were some serious shit going on and realized I might be able to live with the change. But it sure will take me some time to start taking myself serious when healing in caster form.

    Without reading any blue post this feels like a PvP change for all of us who feels a Tree is to obvious as a target in BG’s and also want to be able to deal some damage or CC in there, but we still have the option of staying in caster form.

    If you feel it’s an issue that you can’t dps in heroics, just go in caster form! If it’s so easy you can bother about doing damage when you’re the healer you sure don’t need Tree form to do the job. Also, I once helped out in a normal nexus run where I was healing and at the same time doing about 1k dps, in Naxx-gear. So stop whining about that please.

    Sincerely
    Sahele

    Ps. I also jump when I shift to flight form :)

  5. Shelly says:

    I do think the experiences for the moonkin and tree are rather bland compared to the integration of the bear and cat in their roles (you have to go rawr when you play either of those forms)
    Even with the lore behind the moonkin (slow transformation over time to a moonkin) cat and bear I beg to see why one couldn’t have a similar transformation for the tree so the whole “not in lore” argument should lose some clout.
    I am of the pro-”permanently shifted” stance, but if the change to the tree becomes permanent then there is no reason why the shift cannot be completed in other forms as well.

    http://iblogagain.blogspot.com/2010/04/perspective-of-shifting.html
    .-= Shelly´s last blog ..The Perspective of Shifting =-.

  6. Zenku says:

    So the reason is basically that people can see their armor. Ooookay.

    I know, it’s horrible that we can’t see the difference of a blue tree and an epic tree by just looking at him. Totally ruins the game, doesn’t it? But the same applies for all other forms, too. L2inspect. I haven’t seen even one decent argument from Blizz for this change. They don’t need to drop ToL for all the changes they’re going to implement.

    If I’m in tree form, I’m the healer. When I’m in combat, I don’t have time to marvel over my own armor and satisfy me epeen. I have people to heal. If I want to show it off in town, I just shift out of tree form.

    Do I care about the DPS? Nope, I’m a healer. DPS is not my job. My job is to keep the DPS folks alive so that they can do their DPS. And the tank, of course.

    On my server I see plenty of druids running around as trees all the time. Same with moonkins, or even with bears and cats. They don’t shift out. They stay in their form because they want to. Because they have fun. Oh wait, we can’t have fun in a game. Fun is outlawed. It’s all about progression these days and who has the latest armor fastest. Epeen Country.

    Note: I’m a paladin (prot/holy), but I thought of starting a druid in Cata (Troll druid, rawr!), maybe going feral/resto, but… not so sure anymore. The thought of no more trees in our raids just makes me a little sad. Just bouncing Nelves. Bleh. Yeah, I hate the idle bounce of the female Nelves. Now most of our healers will stand and bounce when idle. Bah!

    Yes, sure, I can do some DPS as holy pally as well. But why would I? It’s not my job. My job is to stand in the corner and waggle my fingers and pop healing spells on my group. If we’re lacking that much in DPS that even the healer has to pitch in… Jeez. Next time I solo the content! Can’t get any worse.

    Next they’ll come for the moonkins. If that happens I’ll quit. I regularly group with the same moonkins. These guys are hilarious. Lots of staring. Then… lots of dancing! Yeah baby. Moonkin dance party with trees mixed in between. Nothing beats that.

    I think dropping ToL is a needless, pointless change, most likely caused by too much QQ from a handful of kids. As usual. Mingling healing with parts of DPS… I don’t know who had that idea, but he must have smoked something. If I spec on healer, I do it because I want to heal. If want to do DPS, I go ret, or balance if I’m a furball.

    Aesthetics, well, give the druids different tree looks. It worked for cats and bears. Maybe change the model and use a mini version of the Ancients. But I don’t find bouncing Nelves to be any better. I think they’re worse.

    @Astemus: a bear stays the same from level 10 to 80. Always looks the same. Always. I have yet to see a bear complaining about that.

  7. Astemus says:

    I think that if you don’t play a druid, you have no right to criticize people who voice their opinions on their chosen class.

    @Zenku: Why don’t bears complain about their forms? We gave up years ago. Blizzard finally gave us an updated form, but realistically, bears are here to stay, and there is no way feral druids will be able to fight in their chosen racial forms. We’ve argued for armor to show on feral forms, we’ve argued for special forms to be rewards from end bosses, we’ve argued for tier armor specific forms… We aren’t getting them. The druid community is a little more intelligent than the paladin community, so this may be a shocker, but we stopped asking because we won’t get it.

    As long as it took them to come out with only 4 new models for feral forms, how long would it take to remodel all existing armor to add a bear AND cat model for even just the shoulderpads? No way they are putting that much work in for a single spec of a single class that is played far less often than other classes.

  8. Moonstalker says:

    “For 30 seconds you are in the form of a Tree, and healing power/whatever is increased by X amount. 2 minute cooldown.”

    Maybe I don’t understand something but why is healing power/whatever necessarily tied to tree form? If you want to change the math, change the math. A new button/spell that increases healing power by x amount/2 min cooldown is ok. BUT I don’t understand why it HAS to be tied to tree form.

    If tree form is an issue for pvp, etc., then glyph for caster form ( or even some other illusionary form – druid heals as an undead ‘lock – lol) Makes spotting you in a crowd different.

    Seems to me like separate issues.

  9. The Scarlet Mathematician says:

    In reading the response to Tree of Life, both here and elsewhere, I’ve been a little confused about the reaction to the Tree of Life change. I understand why people are upset, and even Blizzard expected a flurry of emotional responses when the news was first announced. Time has passed, yet the attitude of those opposed to the change still seems buried in emotions. A vocal portion of the druid community seems to have convinced itself that Blizzard is fixing something that isn’t broken. The gist of their argument seems to be that Blizzard is somehow sacrificing the soul of the druid for sake of mathematical balance. Even Mr. Patricelli, while a much better writer than most forum-goers, is arguing “There are some things more important than math.” Well, one of the things more important than math is game design, and from a design perspective, Tree of Life is horrible. This is the elephant tree in the room. Nobody wants to admit that Tree of Life is a poorly designed talent. For all those who are unclear, let me state it clearly. Blizzard is not changing Tree of Life because of PvP, or because druids can see their armor, or because they want druid healers to DPS, or for any reason relating to balance. Blizzard is changing Tree of Life because it was poorly designed from its inception. Allow me to explain in detail.

    At its root, the problem with Tree of Life is that it adds nothing to the way the class plays. This is what makes comparisons with bear and cat form break down. You couldn’t change bear or cat form to a cooldown, because both of those forms have completely different spellsets, and different resource mechanics. You don’t cast spells any differently. You don’t even cast different spells. The form doesn’t actually do much. Blizzard has repeatedly stated it wants passive buffs out of the talent trees. Unfortunately, at its core, that’s all Tree of Life has to offer.

    Tree of Life form does has a lot of personality. It’s got a great /dance, and it fits in well with the nature-oriented motif of the resto tree. As many have pointed out, it is iconic. Unfortunately, it’s a golden jewel-encrusted anchor dragging down the design of the class. There is no way to fix Tree of Life without radically redesigning it. I see two strategies to fix this.

    1) Introduce a gameplay-changing mechanic associated with the form. Change the way healing works. Introduce treeform-only spells, treeform-only mechanics, and otherwise differentiate the way casting works with the form on. Justify the form not mathematically but mechanically. You’re loosing the ability to cast half of your spells, but you are gaining a new and interesting way to play. (This is the route they took with Moonkin form).

    2) Limit the time you spend in the form, but make the buff it provides something special. Change it so that, in tree form, you really are a better healer than all the other classes. To balance that fact, limit access to the form. The makes interesting gameplay revolve around the decision to enter the tree form. Making Tree of Life a cooldown accomplishes this, but there are other ways, as well, (like only activating when you die, for instance). This is the path Blizzard has chosen for Resto.

    There is nothing saying one solution is better than the other. I have theories on why Blizzard chose the latter, but I can certainly see a cogent argument that Blizzard should take the former option. Yet, I haven’t heard anybody make that argument. The cries I hear mourn the loss of the emotes and the visual-style and the flavor of the form. I’m not saying these aren’t important parts of WoW. But gameplay is important too. From a gameplay design perspective, Tree of Life form is a horrible burden.

    As it stands, all Tree of Life provides a mathematical advantage in the form of a healing power. The problem is, once you start balancing the class with that form in mind, you make the class dependent upon it. Tree of Life can’t make a druid more powerful than the other healing classes. So by necessity, Tree of Life only brings a druid up to the level of other healing classes. Without Tree of Life, a druid is less powerful. Consequently, druids are paying an opportunity cost (access to the rest of their spells) that other healers aren’t paying, all just to keep up. As a designer, if you take the penalty away, then you’ve removed any thought attached to the form. It’s just a mandatory self buff. And you can’t remove the mathematical bonus, because that’s all there is to the talent. There’s no rage, no energy, no additional spells. The only thing Tree of Life gives you is math. You can’t just tweak the numbers and make the problem go away. This is bad design. You have a 41-point talent that adds nothing mechanically, changes how you look, and locks you out of half of your spellbook. Hell, you can get more out of a bottle of Noggenfogger Elixir.

    It’s not wrong to mourn the passing of Tree of Life form (although I personally would wait to see what the cooldown looks like before I declare a net loss in personality). It’s not even wrong to suggest other ways to fix the problem. This isn’t what I see from the community. What I see are druids refusing to see there is a problem with Tree of Life in the first place. Blizzard has always put gameplay first. This is what made World of Warcraft different when it was first released. It shed countless genre convention for the sake of fun gameplay. With Cataclysm, Blizzard is turning the same critical eye to its own classes. In the long run, this will secure the longevity of WoW.

    I believe in game design as an art form, and I believe the artistic value lies beyond both the math and the style of a game. In the end, the aesthetic appeal of a game is defined by the choices the players make, and the Tree of Life change was clearly made with this in mind. At the end of his article, Mr Patricelli recommended Blizzard ask themselves: “is what we expect to gain by making this change worth all that we WILL lose in terms of player goodwill?” Let me end by suggesting druids opposed to the change ask themselves a similar question. Is what we expect to lose more important than what we will lose if we continue to be tied to the current Tree of Life mechanic?

  10. Michelle says:

    When I read this post I really felt something in my heart. I still don’t know what way I’m swinging. I have more then once thought it would be nice to actually see more of my tauren form instead of having to shift every time but I must say Tree of Life holds something special for me. I still remember when I first got it in Zul’Farrak and I loved it from start. I realized what I was feeling when I read the very true words of the allmighty BBB “but when it’s time to get serious, a Druid shifts”. Just having the ability to shift into Tree of Life shows us to be very dedicated healers and when someone sees a Tree they used to be able to know that said Tree was serious about healing. (I just realized dual-spec allready have removed some of that magic, but it’s still in there for me)
    I then swinged a little in the other way when I read Thom’s post about only switching to Tree when there were some serious shit going on and realized I might be able to live with the change. But it sure will take me some time to start taking myself serious when healing in caster form.

    Without reading any blue post this feels like a PvP change for all of us who feels a Tree is to obvious as a target in BG’s and also want to be able to deal some damage or CC in there, but we still have the option of staying in caster form.

    If you feel it’s an issue that you can’t dps in heroics, just go in caster form! If it’s so easy you can bother about doing damage when you’re the healer you sure don’t need Tree form to do the job. Also, I once helped out in a normal nexus run where I was healing and at the same time doing about 1k dps, in Naxx-gear. So stop whining about that please.

    Sincerely
    Sahele

    Ps. I also jump when I shift to flight form :)

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