25 June 2010

In need of some direction

Path of the Titans has gone the way of the... er... Titans. Instead, we'll be getting another layer of glyphs. Warning: old-style Misery rant ahead.

TLDR: if you’re going to add more glyphs to the game, you’d better make sure you know exactly what they are for, and are clearly differentiated from all the other aspects of class enhancements and customisation. Right now, I just don’t see that they are.

I never had Path of the Titans, so I won’t miss it. I never understood it either, so I’m not going to mourn its passing. But it did at least have the feel of something interesting and unique.

With its passing, we are going to get... medium glyphs instead.

/cast doubletake

What was that? More glyphs? Glyphs that aren’t major or minor but are... medium? Seriously? Somebody kick the copywriter and see if he’s dead.

Glyphs already lack a clear purpose, do we really need to go around making it worse? Rohan of Blessing of Kings said it best when he pointed out how many glyphs are virtually indistinguishable from talents, or even enchantments and gems.

Glyph of shadow, for example, is not an interesting glyph. It provides a small, passive boost to damage. It requires no thought whatsoever. There aren’t even any viable alternatives. It is basically just a quick and dirty way to boost shadow dps.

The glyph selections for all classes are padded out largely with glyphs that function in exactly the same way, either boosting the numbers of a specific spell or talent for an overall improvement in performance. In other words, as Rohan said, they are talents.

Inscription was not always supposed to work this way. Once upon a time, it was conceived as a profession which enabled players to change the way their spells worked. Glyph of mind flay worked like this, extending the range of the spell at the expense of its snare. That was just stupid and I’m not advocating a return to the days of our borked range, but you get the point: you had to make a decision, and it had far-reaching implications for how you played your class.

We’ve got some serious differentiation problem between major glyphs, talents, and enchants. (Oh and look, set bonuses do exactly the same thing.) And then we’ve got these annoyingly dull minor glyphs which at best save you a bit of gold on regents but mostly seem to just save you mana when buffing. Woot. Now we’re getting a whole bunch more that do... what exactly? Well, apparently medium glyphs are supposed to introduce the “fun factor” to abilities.

STOP RIGHT THERE.

Here’s a truism about life in general. If you need to tell people something is fun, chances are it probably isn’t.

I am now more certain than ever that Blizzard does not understand the purpose of its own profession. If it is, indeed, to enable players to customise their own spellbooks then they have to get much, MUCH smarter at designing glyphs. Shadow has only six viable end-game raiding glyphs and none have any impact on how we play. Even allowing for the fact that we are a hybrid class with other purposes, you can see how a good chunk of priest glyphs were thought up on a Friday afternoon by the work experience kid (see glyph of shackle, fade, inner fire etc).

I agree with Rohan that the original concept for glyphs was much stronger than it is now, so let’s go back to that. Let’s have glyphs that really do present us with some tough choices. If I want my shadow word: pain to hit harder, what am I willing to give up for that? Will the glyph double its mana cost, so I can’t tab spam? Will it reduce the spell’s dispel resistance, so I can’t take it in pvp? I’m clearly not a game designer, but I bet Blizzard’s combined talent could come up with the goods if they put their minds to it.

If we manage to get to even that point, where there are more interesting glyphs than there are slots (a huge leap from today for some classes), glyphs can’t just be about boosting dps, or healing, or reducing damage, because then you’re just adding talents. And another layer of glyphs is not going to alleviate the best-in-slot problem, it’s just going to aggravate it. Instead of three mandatory glyphs, we’ll just have six. Or eight, or however many new slots we get.

And I really don’t want to see on-use glyphs either. They’d just become ghetto trinkets.

I’m not saying it’s easy to design a system like this – theorycrafters will always attempt to assign relative values for raiding. You’ll always end up with one glyph that’s supposed to do more dps than another. And I think this was Blizzard’s problem from the start.

But you know how not to fix it? Add yet more of the bloody things.

If you can't create something with a clear, unique purpose, what exactly is the point of it? If you switched off glyphs tomorrow, would anyone care? Would anyone even notice?

4 comments:

Grimmtooth said...

Well, first of all, they won't be called "Medium" in the final cut, that's just a placeholder name, according to the press release. Indicative of the last minute scramble that's taking place with this change in direction at Casa de Blizz, I think.

Having said that, I'm with you ... I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.

Oooo ... I think I have a rant coming, too. :: ponders ::

chronic said...

PvPers would care! There's a lot of interesting choices to be made for some classes, since the utility glyphs tend to shine in an arena setting.

For priests there's not that many options I guess, but certainly my rogue has a hard time deciding between the 5-6 viable majors!

calsong said...

I think the purpose to posting that these glyphs are intended as "fun" is to convey design philosophy forecasting, not to tell you to have fun.

I agree something doesn't become fun just because one says it is (often the opposite). That said, if this gives them a way to make the respective glyph niches better defined, I'm all for it.

KWall said...

they shoulda stuck with the path of titans thing. I see no reason for their decision to drop it altogether. It seemed like a new and welcome addition to the game. These new medium glyphs seemed tacked on and misplaced.

I assume they're going to rework the whole glyph system just so they feel integrated as well as differentiated. There need to be bold lines between the different levels of glyphs.

But again they should've just stuck w/ the Path of the Titans. Did they cite a reason for dumping it??