Warcraft: Glyphs are Boring, Part 2

07202010

I’ve often given thought to what I would do to change the glyph system that is in place. Rather, how I would change the glyphs themselves. Blizzard’s current idea is to add in another tier of glyphs between the current minor and major distinctions. These “medium” glyphs would be for abilities that are not used nearly as often but where glyphs would be appreciated. (As of July 16, the three types of glyphs will be Prime, Major, and Minor: Prime glyphs are the current Majors, Major glyphs will be the middle-range, and Minor remains the same.)

Again, a problem I have with the current glyph system is that you typically take the glyphs that increase the effectiveness of your ability rotation the most, and just use those. There’s no room for the utility glyphs that might keep you alive a little longer (unless you’re a tank, in which case there’s no room for the glyphs that increase your damage output), or the ones that are useful but only very situationally.

There 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 them more interesting?

Adding a category of glyph between the higher and lower glyphs is a good start. It gives players freedom to use those situational glyphs and the ones they like over the ones that will increase their damage the most. However, the three Prime glyph spots are going to end up being the same three for each spec unless there are changes in store I’m not aware of. (Note that the last time I logged into the beta, it was mentioned that the glyphs were undergoing a lot of changes (and that some of them may simply not work)…so my hopes are up.)

My opinion: Blizzard should give the playerbase more flexibility. I understand the need for balance but surely there are some things they can do.

The ideas I’ve come up with are typically ways to fill holes in buffs/debuffs in a 10-man raid:

* Glyph of Plague Strike (or Glyph of Blood Plague) – Causes the disease to reduce attack power, like Demoralizing Shout, granting Death Knight tanks the ability to reduce the attack power of many mobs in the absence of a warrior or druid. Alternatively, causes the disease to reduce spell power. (Current: increases the damage dealt by the strike by 20%.)
* Glyph of Obliterate – Reduces the armor of the target by something like 2/3 of the amount a full stack of sunder armor for 15 seconds, but does not stack with sunder or expose armor from rogues. I’ve always felt that the name Obliterate was too cool to be applied to an ability that was just a simple weapon strike. (Current: increases the damage dealt by 20%)
* Glyph of Lightning Shield – Casting Lightning Shield causes a small-ish AoE around the caster. Alternatively, adds the damage to lightning spellcasts, consuming charges, enabling its use by elemental shaman. (Current: increases the damage dealt by 20%)
* Glyph of Frostfire Bolt – Casting Frostfire Bolt reduces the cast time of your next Fireball or Frostbolt by 20%, stacking up to 5 times. Mages haven’t been chain-casting the same one spell for the entire duration of a fight for some time, but this should spice things up for Frostfire mages anyway. (Current: increases the critical strike chance by 2% and the damage by 2%.)
* Glyph of Death Coil – Resets the cooldown on Demonic Teleport, Howl of Terror, Shadowflame, and Shadowfury. (Current: increases the duration by 0.5 seconds)

I admit, the above are just as similar to talents as they already are in-game. However, they would affect gameplay far more, in my opinion.

Another aspect to glyphs could be added efficiency, but with some drawback. This was implemented with a number of glyphs when Wrath of the Lich King shipped and granted them greater distinction from talents, but most (if not all) of the disadvantages on these glyphs were removed in later patches to encourage use.

Glyph of Death Coil (Warlock), for instance, could read something like: “Increases the duration of Death Coil by 5 seconds, but reduces your movement and casting speeds by 50% for 5 seconds as well.” Or, “Increases the healing you receive from your Death Coil ability by 300%, but removes the horror effect.” The second one would be great for PvE. The hindrances added to the first may be too severe…they are both just examples.

Another example could be a glyph for Hand of Freedom: “Increases the duration by 6 seconds, but does not remove existing movement-impairing effects when cast.” Or Glyph of Shield Slam: “Increases the damage dealt by 40%, but reduces chance to block by 20% for 6 seconds after casting.”

Another option for glyphs could be to change the system entirely; instead of class-specific ability-modifying glyphs, they could affect far more general attributes, as the (now-scrapped) Path of the Titans system was to do. The entire reason they scrapped the project was because it was too similar to the glyph system.

The Path of the Titans was a character enhancement system funneled down from the Archaeology secondary profession. You’d have like 10 slots, and each would be a minor boost to some aspect of your character. I do not remember a lot of the details, but individual slots had buffs such as “Reduces damage taken by 4%.” Each one had another effect as well, I believe with the intent of the player choosing one or the other.

Regrettably I do not think we will see significant changes to the glyph system. But time will tell.


Warcraft: Glyphs are Boring, Part 1

07162010

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.