Blizzard tackle World of Warcraft talent revamp criticisms, say old model is "unfixable"

Nathan Grayson at

World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria - Panda kicks Heron

Blizzard is fed up with talent trees. Mists of Pandaria, then, is going to kick off a talent deforestation of such magnitude that it'll have even Smokey Bear reconsidering his career path. In talent trees' place, Blizzard's implementing a much simpler system that - unsurprisingly - has many players up in arms. Lead system designer Greg Street, however, promises that this isn't just "change for change’s sake." There's a method to the madness.

"Look, we tried the talent tree model for seven years. We think it’s fundamentally flawed and unfixable. We know some of you have faith in us that someday we’ll eventually replace all of the boring +5% crit talents with interesting talents and give you 80 talent points that you can spend wherever, and that the game will still remain relatively balanced and fun. We greatly appreciate your faith, but we fear it is misplaced," he wrote in an in-depth blog post.

"It’s not a matter of coming up with enough fun mechanics, which is challenging but ultimately doable. The problem is the extreme number of combinations. When you have such a gigantic matrix, the chances of having unbeatable synergies, or combinations of talents that just don’t work together is really high. That’s not lazy design. That is recognizing how math works," posted Street.

He admitted that the new system offers fewer choices, but puts a premium on "choices that matter." Further, he noted that players who wear smartly selected talents as a badge of honor are - by and large - puffing out their chests over their ability to work a keyboard. Cookie cutter builds, he explained, are not an indicator of skill.

"The players in question fully admit that they don't experiment to find the best build," he said. "They accept the cookie cutter spec that is offered from a website, but then they use the fact that they knew the cookie cutter to mock players who don't. Intimate knowledge of game mechanics certainly is and should be a component of skill. But knowing how to Google '4.3 Shadow spec' doesn't automatically make you a better player."

He was also honest about Blizzard's own failings in the past. New talents, for instance, may appear to be PvP-centric, but Street just takes that as an indicator that PvE isn't interesting enough. It needs more tense showdowns at death's door, so you'll be forced to dig deep into your arsenal: " I think it’s a fair complaint that our outdoor world creatures have become a little monotonous over the years," he said. "We are also taking some steps with Mists to encourage more crossover between PvP and PvE as the game once had, so even if you don’t care for PvP now, maybe we can get you interested in the future."

And that's barely even the tip of this Blizzard-themed iceberg. It's an absolutely mammoth post, but if you're a dedicated WoW player, it's pretty much required reading. Now then, with that out of the way, there are more pressing matters to attend to. For instance, holy crap, this game is gonna have pandas. We should pester Blizzard incessantly about that.