18 September 2008

Dispersion: where Blizzard went wrong

I made a rare visit to the forums last night to check out the popular opinion on dispersion. I'd say a lot of people are really rather pleased with the buffs it received in the last patch. The fact that it now offers a pve buff as well as survivability has placated raiders, while the ability to activate it when incapacitated gives the talent greater functionality for pvpers. It's a minor PR victory for Blizzard in their development of the priest class.

Well I'm not buying it.

You know what? I think dispersion was a better spell when it returned health but didn't dangle the prospect of a damage buff.

There, I've said it.

Don't get me wrong, I still didn't want it as my 51-point talent. But it made sense as a spell — you could immediately see when and how it could be used.

The problem was it was a purely defensive ability at the pinnacle of a priest's damage tree. How did that happen? Here you had a community of players threatened by the loss of a primary raiding role (mana regeneration) and insecure about their ability to perform, seeing warlocks and mages and hunters getting new and powerful abilities. When dispersion was announced, they saw their futures vanish in a puff of pure shadow energy.

I think what happened is the developers saw feedback and concerns about survivability from pvp shadow priests and mana conservation from pve shadow priests and married the two. Dispersion was a well-intentioned attempt to address both of these issues at once.

As we all know by now, the first iteration of dispersion didn't go down too well with anyone. There was much wailing, pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth, all of which served to muddy the waters and mask the true concerns.

Which was a shame, because those concerns were rather simple. You could actually boil them down to one thing: dispersion silenced you.

Pvp and pve shadow priest were united in their horror of the fact that the top talent of the shadow tree provided absolutely nothing to their primary roles. In fact, in both instances, it would likely serve only to reduce their damage output.

Blizzard had a million options for addressing the survivability of shadow priests, both through new talents and abilities and through changes to existing talents and abilities. And no reasonable person would have expected survivability without a cost. But they choose to pin all their hopes on one imba 51-point talent and seem determined to make it work.

Blizzard could simply have enabled shadow priests to cast while dispersed. Raiders would still have been rather grumpy about it, but it at least wouldn't have cut into their dps. There must have been some pvp reason I don't understand why this option would have been overpowered though, because Blizzard continues to resist the concept.

Instead, in an attempt find a use for dispersion in pve, they have bolted on a completely spurious spell damage buff which only activates if you don't take damage while dispersed.

Let's be absolutely clear what this means — dispersion is now an either/or spell. You can either use it to reduce incoming damage or to buff spell damage. You cannot have both.

Am I the only one who sees the joke? Blizzard invents a spell to improve shadow priest survivability but when it doesn't go down too well they add a secondary mechanic that virtually guarantees no priest will ever intentionally use it to reduce incoming damage.

All raiding priests will build this into their spell cycles to ensure maximum uptime of the buff. Even pvp shadow priests are likely to want the buff over the silence. How could you turn down a 25% boost to dps when your job is to kill things quickly?

Blizzard needs to make up its mind about a few things. Does it believe shadow priests need added survivability? Does it believe shadow priests need increased damage potential? And does it believe it is overpowered to provide both of these things in one spell?

Dispersion sells itself as a spell for all people, but fails to deliver in its execution. By forcing priests to choose one benefit or the other, it fails to address at least one current concern about the class and is simply storing up problems for the future.

I can certainly understand why they are reluctant to go back to the drawing board with shadow — they are running out of time. I personally think pvp survivability issues can't be solved by a magic button and it was misguided to even try, but it looks like dispersion is here to stay.

The good news is it shouldn't be hard to fix. You could balance dispersion in any number of ways to ensure it conveyed survivability and a damage boost — perhaps not to the extent it does either right now, but then however you look at dispersion today, 50% of it is wasted.

It's this waste that really upsets me. We've all heard Blizzard talk about their design philosophy for talents and how they assign values to talents to ensure balance across classes and trees. Clearly, we are loosing out on that value with dispersion as it stands.

That's why I still don't like the spell, why I won't be standing up and cheering for it today, and that's why I hope we haven't seen the last change to it quite yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i completely agree.
after watching rogues and warlocks get ridiculously over powered once again; ive decided to re-roll. it took me this long, this much effort to realize that no matter how talented i may be, as a spriest there will always be classes with a staggering advantage over me. and now since holy/disc priests are batteries too, we truly have little to no purpose.

Fuck you very much, Blizz!