Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hybrids and class balance

I'm worried about class balance in World of Warcraft right now. My guild put up a "template" of required classes for a 10-man raid, and the first five spots look like this: Druid tank, random tank, druid healer, priest healer, random healer. Oh great, warriors are now "random tanks", and priests aren't a top priority any more. Instead we *require* two druids per raid, top spot for both tanking and healing. And of course they also qualify as random tank, random healer, and for the two random dps spots, so we wouldn't mind taking 6 druids with us to Naxxramas. There is no other class we would take more than 3 of.

When looking at class balance, classes aren't so much defined by what they do best, but by what they *can't* do, or rather by what they can't do reasonably well. We can argue for hours whether druids are really better tanks than warriors, or whether they are really better healers than priests, or really as good as dps as all the dps classes. But the very fact that you can hold all three of those discussions points to the problem: In the current design philosophy of Blizzard, hybrids have no fundamental weaknesses, and are thus better than specialized classes. Warriors can't heal, priests can't tank, mages can't do either. Why play one of these specialized classes if a hybrid class can do as well in your specialization *plus* can do as well as any other class in their specialization?

10 druids could easily clear Naxxramas, 10 paladins could do it, but it would be a bit harder. 10 players of any single other class can't do it. There are 8 classes in the game that can't do everything, and 2 that can, and that is not what I call class balance. Hybrids *must* have some weakness, otherwise they make all the more specialized classes obsolete. In spite of there being only one race per faction that can roll druids, the class is now one of the most popular, especially among level 80 players. That is simply bad design. Either you make every class be able to do everything, which is obviously silly, or you accept that choosing a class means choosing something you can do well, and something you can do less well.

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