Ghostcrawler Expands on Recent Cataclysm Changes

Ghostcrawler has been answering questions raised by the recent announcement of Cataclysm changes in this thread.

Why Guild Talents Were Removed

Guilds are, for the most part, groups of friends. We don’t want features to drive wedges between them. We don’t want you to guild hop looking for the talents that suit you best; we want you to play (or in many cases keep playing) with your friends. With a talent tree, guilds would naturally have different talent trees, which creates a reason to bail or guild hop that doesn’t exist today.

Would anyone jump guilds based on talents alone?  I find this a bit hard to believe.  When people guild hop it tends to be to jump ahead in progression.  If you move guilds while retaining your progression, then the move probably had more to do with the people than with anything else.  It might have been a personality conflict or a failure of the guild to focus and start progressing, but I doubt it was over something like whether the guild paid for raid repairs or provided free flasks.

Furthermore, we felt like the decision-making, for many guilds, would be up to a relatively few people, possibly as few as the guild master. Talent trees work for classes because the decision is up to you. We didn’t want to create the risk of drama over choosing those talents or even not being consulted in choosing them.

Again, I don’t really buy this. Most policy decisions in guilds come down to a few people, possibly just the GM. Good guild masters consult and take member input into their decisions, while bad ones just do what they think is right. Adding talents to the myriad of other things that guild leadership decides isn’t going to change the way in which good and bad guild masters operate. Perhaps it would exacerbate the problem that members face under bad guild masters, but that’s not in Blizzard’s remit to solve. That’s a social problem that should be dealt with by the members of the guild – typically by leaving.

Blizzard certainly hasn’t shied away from making changes to guild organization that caused drama in the past.  Just as a few examples:

All of these things caused guild leaders massive headache, and created considerable drama in guilds.  I’m not saying that all of these decisions were flawed – far from it.  If they’d never tried the four separate lockouts on ToC, they wouldn’t know how bad they were, and they might have chosen to set up all the Cataclysm launch raid content in that fashion.  That would have been far worse than the failed experiment that was Call of the Crusade.  Likewise, the change from 40 to 25 person raiding was in retrospect a good one, as was the decision to have both 10 and 25 person raids.

I just don’t think it’s Blizzard’s problem to eliminate drama from guilds, nor do I think that the introduction of guild talents was going to create drama in guilds where none existed.  Drama tends to be the result of lack of communication – and if you’re not talking to your members today, your guild likely has problems that are completely independent of guild talents.

Another advantage of the perks system is that it’s easily expandable. If we want to add new levels and / or perks in later patches or expansions, we can, without having to re-juggle a talent tree.

Ah, this one rings true. They don’t know how powerful guild talents are going to be. As with all new features, they may very well get it wrong the first time. When you get it wrong and your re-balancing effort hits a large subset of guilded players rather than the 6 to 15% of all players that are affected by class talent re-balancing, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of pain.

Of course, a change to a guild perk will still more people, but the difference is that it will affect everyone identically. Let’s take the talent that increases gold found on mobs: what if it maxed out at 3% and many guilds didn’t take it. Later on they re-balance it so it maxes out at 6%. Now it’s very attractive. Do they offer free guild talent resets for everyone? If they do, then any guild with inactive leadership will lose out on all talents until the GM logs in and resets things. If they don’t, the forums will be full of people complaining that they have to pay gold (or guild currency) to reset their talents because of the re-balance.

So yes, this was probably required to avoid guild talents becoming a thorn in the designer’s sides. I just wish they’d be more open about it rather than make up excuses that don’t really measure up.

The Perks are the Talents

The effects of guild perks are the effects that guild talents were meant to bring:

The only difference in the way we are handling the guild talents is it will be possible to get all of them instead of having one person in your guild pick and choose which ones you got. The feature has always focused on leveling your guild to unlock new perks. In fact, you’re getting more perks this way than you would have if the decisions had been exclusive.

The bottom line is that  we’ll still get the extra gold, mass resurrection and reagentless buffs, but in a Blizzard-defined order instead of one we might choose ourselves.

I hope that some of the perks will come from achievements and not just from leveling.  From the image they showed at Blizzcon last year:

There certainly seems to be more than 25 available talent points in the tree (notice the scrollbar).  I count 28 talents, and two of them show 3/3 points.

I’m fine with having certain high-level perks come from the guild focusing and achieving something, but I’d rather not see Mass Resurrection given out just because 20 people logged onto do their dailies for three months.  Perhaps we’ll get the extra gold perk for hitting level 10, reagentless buffs at 25 and mass resurrection when we’ve cleared all the raids available at launch.  That type of hybrid design feels right to me, but doing no raid content and getting the same rewards (especially those whose primary benefit is to raiders) doesn’t.

Guild Rewards Purchased with Cash are Yours to Keep

There are two categories of rewards. The perks are things earned by the guild. If you join a high-level guild, you get those benefits immediately and you lose them if you bail on the guild. They are passive bonuses and a couple of spells, not items. Separately, there are also items you can purchase. The items are yours to keep even if you leave the guild. In order to discourage guild hopping, you have to make some kind of investment in the guild. But you can still choose to leave if in the future you just find that you’d rather be with someone else.

As I suspected, the guild reputation is the protection against selling invites to a guild with many achievements just to purchase their items.  Expect ground mounts to require revered and flying mounts to require exalted.  I would also expect the “grind” with your guild to take about three months of two or three days per week activity to get to exalted.

The Change was Essentially to the Guild UI Only

Some players focused on “cut guild talents” without reading what we are doing instead. […] We haven’t cut any content, but just changed the UI from boxes with prereqs to a list.

Fair enough, I’m guilty of that in the title of my previous article. But to be fair, GC’s explanations should have been woven into the original press tour. Why they kept half the information given to the press corps under NDA for three days after the first bits came out is beyond me. Sometimes Blizzard really creates their own PR nightmare.

I guess I’m feeling a little bit better about the changes now, though I’m still annoyed at how the changes were communicated and the lack of specialization. But at least the meat of this Cataclysm change has not been cut.

From the department of corrections: as a few people commented, I had the move to a different raid ID thing backwards – it is a move forward and not back in progression to stop people farming the same boss. I’m not sure why that initially struck me something they wouldn’t do, given that it is just like missing a raid night. Again, I blame vague language. Don’t use the word “that” to refer to one of two equivalent subjects without clarifying which is which.

Until Next Time