#0 - Aug. 4, 2009, 8:25 p.m.
Community Team: Joining us today to close out this round of the Class Q&A Series by addressing questions collected from the priest community is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft, Ghostcrawler, who has enlisted the assistance of several members of our class design team to provide the most thorough answers possible. We’d like to begin as we always do by addressing what priests add to the World of Warcraft experience.
Q: Where do priests fit in the current scope of things, and where do you see them from this point going forward? What makes them unique?
Ghostcrawler: When you think of the priest in the context of traditional MMOs you think of the token healer, usually part of the “holy trinity” along with the warrior and mage. Many players who picked the priest as their character when they started the game had the expectation that they would be the premier healer, playing the role of support. Certainly in the beginning of World of Warcraft the priest was the class you chose when you were looking for a healer, and the class was adept at filling that role. However, unlike in other RPGs we’ve tried to make healing a role that many classes can fill. This is why sometimes priests can feel that they aren’t balanced correctly, since they aren’t necessarily the best healer. In World of Warcraft, the priest isn’t a stronger healer than the other classes, but does have unmatched versatility. At its core the priest has two unique talent trees for healing, while the others only have one. Furthermore, the priest has strong heal-over-time spells (HoTs), direct heals, and area-of-effect (AoE) heals. So where the power of the priest comes in is how you use your entire repertoire of healing tools together to overcome a situation, rather than focusing on one aspect. Players sometimes call this the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none role, but we don’t really view it that way. The priest has a big toolbox. That makes you versatile, but at the cost (in player skill) of knowing how to match the right spell for the right job. The trade-off of the healing priest isn’t in trading power for versatility, but in having narrow niches for spells but a lot of spells. One other way we’ve tried to make the priest class more enjoyable is by fleshing out its damage-dealing talent specialization (spec), the Shadow tree. In the beginning, the Shadow spec was more of a leveling tree and not really viable for high-end content late game. In The Burning Crusade, it didn’t really keep up in damage compared to other classes in raiding but it did bring strong utility. Finally, in Wrath of the Lich King we increased its damage-dealing potential to make it near that of a primary damage-per-second (dps) caster -- such as a mage -- while also retaining some of its unique utility which made it cool during The Burning Crusade. Overall, we feel the priest is one of the most versatile classes in the game, and can be the most enjoyable of the healer classes in the game because of its feature of having two different unique talent specs providing two different types of play styles. And for players who enjoy the dps aspect, you always have the option of going to the dark side as Shadow to either melt faces in PvP or help take down foes in PvE. As for moving forward, in a nutshell we’d like to improve the Holy tree’s PvP niche and polish the Shadow tree a bit more for both aspects of the game.
Community Team: Since the role of a priest can vary drastically depending on the type of role the player wishes to fill, let’s focus on Shadow priests and dealing damage first.
Q: What makes a Shadow priest effective in a raid environment versus a PvP environment?
Ghostcrawler: Shadow priests have some start up time to get all of their DoTs going before the damage really starts coming in. This is easier in a boss fight that lasts for several minutes and harder in a really dynamic PvP environment.
Q: Since a lot of the damage a Shadow priest does builds with damage-over-time (DoT) spells, are you concerned about them being well-rounded enough to do adequate damage in shorter PvE encounters, 5-player dungeons, or in the Arenas?
Ghostcrawler: This is a long answer.
First, we want a certain amount of class diversity. We try to make sure that everyone’s single-target dps is comparable to that of similar specs or classes, and we try to make sure that most damage specs can do some amount of AoE damage. But we don’t obsess with say slow group pulls compared with say fast single-target pulls to make sure everyone’s damage is comparable in every situation.
Second, if the pulls are really that quick, nobody is counting on your dps to begin with. What I mean is that if you are pulling and killing groups of mobs faster than every 20 seconds, then the extra damage you might or might not bring isn’t really an issue because stuff is just collapsing anyway. On the other hand, if the pulls take 20 seconds, then you should have plenty of time to get your DoTs up before stuff starts to die.
Third, there is an issue of player skill here too. If your group kills the skull first every time, then maybe you want to DoT the third or fourth mob in the group so that you do have the benefit of time elapsing. DoTs just work differently. The Enhancement shaman by contrast can be at 100% on one target, then switch and be at 100% on the new target instantly. Not every class or spec can do that and class diversity would be a little boring if they could.
Fourth, the issue that we think is most problematic is found in the Shadow talents. Many of them say basically “while your DoTs are ticking.” This means in 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.