Part of the process of leveling of an alt (Void Elf Priest), I’m getting a clear reminder on multiple aspects of the dev thinking process over the years. Quest design from Cataclysm in particular is a level of gameplay that really takes me for a loop. MMO dev has come a long way.
The pace of leveling (or really, futility of it in WoW) is another post. This one is about character design.
Quite a few class/spec combos really devolve into 3 main buttons, which are cooldown/resource related. Talents then add a proc mechanic. If you’re lucky, you’ll get another long cooldown button to press. So what you see at level 20 is pretty darn close to the rotation you see until you ding 120. I won’t get too much into the balancing challenges posed by talents, just enoguh to say that there are ones that are clearly better than others with only a small amount that aren’t viable.
The ability “un-pruning” for Shadowlands may address this, but effectively requires some redesign work for each class/spec. That’s a ton of work.
But THIS post is about the RNG of character development – specifically Azerite and Corruption, as each are item-specific. I’ve yet to find a spec that didn’t have a clear winner in the Azerite trait category. There’s been a lot of tweaking since launch, but you’re not going to find a Frost Mage that isn’t stacking 3x Flash Freeze (2 stacks give more than 3 stacks of anything else). The was a main pain point I had with the original system, where you would have a great trait, then get a clear ilvl upgrade but without the trait and just ignore that new piece. The end result is a best-in-slot list that has massive variations, and you’re looking for 1 drop from 1 boss that is not so much optimal as super-powered. Some Azerite traits will change player rotations, making some more suddenly more viable to use.
Corruption is the inversion of Azerite traits. Instead of have the points on hand, you’re working on credit. Your corruption “debt” has penalties to playstyle, but provides an insane boost. Infinite Stars & Twilight Devastation are like a nuke on a fly. They can account for 50% of a player’s DPS. There are other traits that have benefits (Masterful for Frost Mages is quite impressive), but that requires a level of math that isn’t obvious without sims. You put IS on any player, and they will immediately see the difference. Doesn’t change the playstyle, you just have a massive passive source of DPS.
Oh, and Corruption is applied through RNG on drops, or RNG through a vendor with grindable currency requirements. There’s no way to target a trait, other than grind currency and hope the vendor eventually has it in stock. I’m cool with the RNG part, I am less so with the crazy passive power gains. If you thought Titanforging was bad, then this would make you go up the wall.
The design choices here are quite odd. The “plan” was to have scaling difficulty and less of a gap between a fresh 120 and a max 120. That really didn’t work at launch of BfA, and Corruption traits seem to be the answer to it. There are certainly catch up mechanics to get over that hump, give everyone a passive DPS boost, and sort of sweep 8.0/8.1 under the rug like it didn’t happen. Azerite traits could use a bit of balancing, but the method of acquisition is straightforward enough. Corruption as a concept is actually really cool, and parts of the implementation are a nice twist – the debt aspect in particular. It’s the sum of the parts that I find irritating. May just be time to accept the fact that stat squishes are going to be part of each expansion, as the power curve inside each is now at the exponential level.