At GDC 2011, Tom Chilton gave a speech to fellow game developers, sharing some of the lessons learned from Cataclysm and some things they should watch out for. In particular, he warned of the problems that came of the talent system – bloat, illusion of choice, confusion for new players… he said that if he were to do it again, he’d like a system similar to Modern Warfare 2‘s perks. I’ve never played MW2, so I can’t say whether that’s a good system or not – but I think first I’d like to ask whether the problems with the current system are really that bad.
To address the simple ones first:
- Bloat: Yes, there was a lot of bloat, and there could be in the future. But that was a result of Blizzard adding a talent point with every level with the two new expansions; that’s not something they have to do. Nor do they have to add new talents to the bottom of the tree – they could just as easily move sideways.
- Confusion: A player now has 10 levels before they have to worry about talents at all, and until level 70 before they have to worry about multiple trees. There are very few talents that are not good for PvE, and they’re easy to spot and avoid. You should know your class pretty well before you have to worry about choosing “the best” spec.
And that brings us to his other point – the “illusion of choice”. The crux of his argument is simple: Theorycrafters find the mathematically superior combination of talents for a simulated boss fight, and then the vast majority of people just use that.
I don’t disagree that that happens – but is it a problem? First off, simply choosing to use that spec IS a choice. That spec is not always best, regardless of simulated fights; choosing to use it means eschewing anything tailored to fight-specifics in order to make something that works well most of the time. It also means you’re focusing on raid-length fights, rather than dungeons. Not to mention PvP…