It has been a long, strange journey, but yesterday Blizzard brought its epic player Q&A series to an end with the priest class.
There's no easy way to take hundreds of questions from hundreds of players and distil them into a comprehensive, digestible response. But to Blizzard's credit, they have at least made this process transparent. We all see the same questions, helping us to form an impression of the most popular concerns — while at the same time, unavoidably, creating a sense of expectation. In short, we thought we knew what was coming.
Things look very different today. I'm not at all convinced that the questions posed by the developers are all representative of the community's submissions, nor am I satisfied that the community's top concerns are all addressed here. In fact, in some instances, it even appears that the question has been crafted to fit the statement Blizzard wanted to make.
The cynic in me can't help but observe a general degradation in the quality of responses as this process has gone on. Am I being unfair to think that perhaps this has proved too time-consuming, or too boring, to allow the same level of effort on each Q&A? Is it a coincidence that the priest Q&A is last?
You may accuse me of expecting too much. It's true that I have placed a lot of faith in the outcome of this process. But I don't think my expectations were too high. By it's very nature, this Q&A event is a significant and exceptional occurrence in Blizzard's community relations. It's not unrealistic to expect the responses to be comprehensive. And while I must admit that in my wildest dreams I imaged a long list of promises, in reality all I ever expected was an acknowledgement of concerns and a stake in the ground from Blizzard on how they saw them. Yes, we know you are worried about this, but don't be — or, I'm sorry, that's not something we intend to address right now. Disappointment is better than apoplexy.
But here we are. Merlot is nothing if not a pragmatist! We have some straws to clutch at, and some deep brooding to undertake. Let's look at what they did say, before grouching briefly about what they didn't say, and finally considering where we go from here.
I'm not going to reprint the Q&A in full here, but if you haven't seen it yet and want to, here's the full horror courtesy of mmo champion.
There aren't many of them, but I'll start with the most revealing and relevant question and spend a little time on that. I've skipped some pvp questions, don't hate me.
Q. Since a lot of damage a shadow priest does builds with damage-over-time spells, are you concerned about them being well rounded enough to do adequate damage in shorter pve encounters, 5-player dungeons, or in the arena?
I don't think anybody gives a shit about shadow's 5-player damage, or even 'shorter' pve encounters. I'm sure there are pvp concerns, but in pve the big issue is target-switching and burn phases. Given Blizzard's recent concerted efforts to tone down burst damage in pvp, I don't think anybody expected a lot of promises, but the big hope was for some cooldowns or executes. These hopes weren't even acknowledged. What we did get was some recognition from Ghostcrawler that our talents are primarily focused around long-term damage via dots:
"Many [talents] say basically "while your dots are ticking". This means in the situations where the dots can't tick (say those very short pve fights, or sometimes in pvp) you are doubly punished since now those talents aren't pulling their weight. The shadow tree could benefit from more talents that affect all damage and not just the dots."This is confusing two issues — while it's true that a lot of out talents boost the power of dots, and are therefore wasted when we don't apply those dots, it's not true that "many" shadow talents "say basically 'while your dots are ticking'". One or two at most. Our only significant glyph also says this, but that's a different (unanswered) issue. But the point is taken — any class that is designed about dots is going to be gimped if they don't apply them. That's a given, isn't it?
The unsatisfactory but straw-like implication of GC's words is that we may find shadow word: death, mind blast and mind flay getting a few small buffs here and there to compensate. I'll reserve judgement on the final execution, but already I see problems with this approach. How do you buff spells which are a part of a class's single-target damage repertoire without inadvertently increasing their overall damage? And even when you do, how is this a good solution when the class happily acknowledges that dots comprise the core of its damage potential?
I'm afraid GC completely fluffed this answer, which is a shame given that it was his opening gambit. Already, shadow priests the world over are shuddering.
Q. Are developers happy with the functionality of dispersion and is it considered to be an adequately valuable final talent in the shadow tree?
Short answer: yes. This isn't an issue for raiding shadow priests, we've come to terms with it and moved on.
Q. Would you consider removing the cast time for mind blast to make it a more desirable direct-damage spell given that it already has a cooldown?
I'm very annoyed that this question even made it into the final cut. Apart from the fact that I didn't notice hundreds of priests jumping up and down for it (and don't consider it an issue myself), this is simply a proffered solution to the first question — in other words, this is very sloppy work Blizzard. You answered this over all the other questions we had? You wrote two long paragraphs on why you won't remove a spell's cooldown instead of telling us why we won't scale properly with haste?
Q. As many players report that vampiric embrace and vampiric touch lack viability in pvp settings and vampiric enbrace tends to generate too much threat in pve settings, are there any plans you can share to improve the functionality of these spells?
OMG. Every time I read this question I think I'm having an aneurism. Where are all the priests who think their HARDEST HITTING DOT lacks viability? Or the MORONS who can't handle ve's threat? SHOW ME.
Quite rightly GC told these fictitious priests to fuck off. What a waste of a question.
Q. How about increasing the range of mind flay?
No, you've got a glyph, piss off.
Q. Shadow word: death was once a spell that priests used frequently in pve, but has basically dropped off their bar. Are there any plans to improve this?
Well apparently, they think we have enough spells to use so don't want to "necessarily" go back to us using it on cooldown. GC goes on to talk about how they might consider toning down the backlash, which is categorically not something any shadow priest gives a flying fuck about. We don't use it more because it's an insignificant increase on our dps, not because it causes damage. This question, like so many others in this thread, should have been better phrased.
Q. Have you considered providing a talent to increase the duration of shadowfiend as a mana regeneration mechanic for longer boss fights?
You mean instead of a talent to lower the cooldown of shadowfiend? Like veiled shadows? Who came up with these questions?
This Q&A is arguably more revealing by what Blizzard didn't address. As mentioned already, when talking about shadow's burst potential, they conveniently side-stepped cooldowns and executes altogether, something which many players called for in the threads.
The issues behind many of these questions are either misunderstood or overlooked. Take mind flay as a case in point. We asked about its range because we don't want to have to give up a valuable glyph slot just to achieve parity of spell range with other casters. So to dismiss the concern because there's a glyph to fix it is missing the point entirely.
Glyphs too were a major concern to many contributors but the topic was skipped.
Pain and suffering bug? Ignored. Out-of-mana regen? Ignored. And the biggest concern of all shadow priests in those two long lists of questions — haste scaling — ignored. Some of my issues could, just, be passed off as marginal; there is no excuse for skipping this.
Shady Pines here we come
I fear this Q&A will leave many shadow priests felling rather insecure and uncertain about their future raiding careers. It didn't address many significant issues, and those it did touch on were not answered to any great satisfaction.
I'll probably continue to melt faces, not only because I've got a blog to maintain, but because my guild still finds the misery debuff and replenishment of some use. But that won't last forever. More and more of the casters are hit capped, and with replenishment so readily available, it may well prove easier to switch a hunter to survival than carry me into the Coliseum.
This is the point where you tell me I'm over-reacting. surely, it's not as bad as I think it is?