Warcraft: Glyphs are Boring, Part 1

Glyphs are character enhancements that might as well be synonymous to getting 10 or so more talent points. In fact, glyphs and talents in some respects have been interchanged, where Blizzard would decide to take the effects from one talent and attach it to a glyph and vice versa to keep both effects in the game, but essentially do nothing to our characters. I think this design is boring. Granted, it is a better system than simply giving us 10 more talent points, but I propose that it is still uninteresting for them to work in nearly the same fashion.

Additionally, much like the talent system, we end up with many, many players all taking the same glyphs for one spec. When it becomes obvious through testing that glyphs A, B, and C will get you the most mileage, why continue to offer the choice to the players? (There are some instances where personal preference can prevail over performance on this issue, but only as it does not fall too far behind in performance, and may be challenged by other players.) It is an awkward sort of game within WoW (again paralleling the talents) where if you do not know which talents to take, and/or you choose glyphs based on personal preference, you could easily end up with the “wrong” glyphs and perform less effectively than those who chose the “right” ones.

Blizzard representatives commented that some of the less effective talents that they’re removing are like “traps” for inexperienced players: they look appealing but are not worth the point expenditure, which a player would know if they looked into what other players have researched (or in rare cases researched themselves). The same thing can happen with glyphs.

In most cases you can mathematically prove which one is best, exactly like you can with talents. This, and the sharing of information which is the Internet, funnel many people to the sites that relate this information, resulting in players being allowed to make the “right” choice. I do not know that Blizzard expected the community to latch on to the game the way it has, but some fansites devote themselves entirely to the display and discussion of those results.

At any rate, glyphs are class-specific and modify one ability each in some way. For the most part, they increase the effectiveness by a percentage. A good example is the Glyph of Obliterate, for Death Knights – “Increases the damage dealt by Obliterate by 20%.” This text reads exactly like the talents that Blizzard is trying to remove – though in fairness, the talents they’re removing (as they’ve said) are for the most part the ones that increase all the damage your character would do by a percentage instead of those that offer increases to specific abilities.

It remains a balance issue. Blizzard can only handle balancing so much, and with as much interactivity as this game has between a character’s statistics, abilities, talents, and other enhancements, you can run into a lot of trouble with balance if you do not limit interactivity. A talent or glyph that benefits a certain specialization exactly as intended could affect another specialization in a drastically unintended way.

For instance, say Blizzard created a glyph for restoring mana to a melee-specialized paladin to ease resource management, allowing them to continue to use their abilities as is their desire as a game developer. Obviously it is no fun being unable to act as you are required because you have run dry the resource your class uses. However, healing-specialized paladins are required to manage their mana effectively in order to continue healing over time (I won’t get into why melee classes are allowed that over healing classes here). If this glyph is not limited, it could allow healing paladins to heal without limitation from their mana, which is an intended hindrance to healing. This would mean that other healing classes are less effective than paladins because the other classes would still have to manage their spell casting in order to not run out of mana. If Blizzard decides never to fix the problem they’ve created:

1) their previous and any further development of the three other healing classes (priests, druids, and shaman) is wasted time
2) giving paladins a resource at all and providing costs for spells is wasted time
3) people may stop playing the game altogether out of frustration (if they chose to level one of the three other healing classes), thus resulting in some lost money for the company

The list could go on. The point is, Blizzard is striving to achieve equality among the classes but at the same time instill diversity. The classes are different, but need to perform similarly well. Thus, you cannot have one that is obviously much more powerful than the others. (The argument could be made that paladin healers alone have enough built-in limitations that even infinite mana might not marginalize the other three classes as healers. This is one saving grace for Blizzard and the instilled diversity the game has.)

For those who haven’t played WoW, why are you still reading or for some historical nostalgia, the above example with paladin healing is almost exactly what did happen with the ability “Divine Plea” which restored mana over time. Initially, it would restore 25% of your mana over 8 seconds or so, but reduced your healing by 20% while it was active, intended for use by melee and tank paladins, or as an emergency ability for healers. However, the penalty was not enough, and paladin healers almost never ran out of mana because they could keep using this ability…20% less healing was not enough to stop them from using it whenever possible. So Blizzard increased the penalty to 50%…healers could still use it, but 50% healing is a pretty drastic hit compared to 20%…so the paladins had to make sure it was a good idea beforehand.

So what can Blizzard do to fix this? It doesn’t necessarily need fixing, obviously, as it is a fairly harmless system as-is. I just question the point of having a character enhancement system behaving very similarly to another one and would love to see something far more interesting take its place. I should note that Blizzard, just as with the talents, are changing the glyph system for Cataclysm. More on that next post.


One Response to Warcraft: Glyphs are Boring, Part 1

  1. […] are a bunch of glyphs as I’ve mentioned that are bland. They increase the damage of one ability by x%. What changes could be made to make […]

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