Blizzard unveiled their new talent system for the Mists of Pandaria expansion, and it’s a massive change — and, I think, a pretty great one.
They talked a lot about how the original design for the talent system essentially failed in its design goal. They wanted a way for characters of the same class to make choices that made them different from each other. Unfortunately the way the talent system worked in practice gave you different specs, but no real choices other than that. Because there were pretty demonstrably better and worse talents, cookie cutter builds became the way to go, and if you deviated from them too much, you were hurting your ability to play your character to the fullest potential.
They felt that their Cataclysm revamp helped a bit, but not nearly enough. They created some choice in talents, but not enough choice. They got rid of some junk talents, but not all of them. And it was still possible for players to make a demonstrably “wrong” choice — which means that it’s not really a choice at all, just a trap for the unwary.
The goal of the new talent system is to bring meaningful choices to players. Here’s how it works:
Character abilities are split into three categories:
- Class Abilities: much as we have now, things like Steady Shot and Freezing Trap that are available to all hunters.
- Spec Abilities: this is being greatly expanded. Currently we get one spec ability when we turn level 10. In MoP you’ll still choose your spec at 10 and get a spec ability, but then you’ll get additional spec abilities as you level. These are the must have talents and, in some cases, core class abilities will switch to spec abilities (Kill Command will become the BM level 10 ability, for example, and no longer be available to other specs as a class ability.
- Talent Abilities: Talents are the only choices that you make after choosing your class and choosing your spec, and are the area where you individualize your character and separate her from other characters of the same spec. Talents are universal to a class, and are not spec-specific — so BM, MM, and SV hunters will all be choosing from the same talent pool.
The Talent System
The way talents will work is you choose a new talent at level 15, and every 15 levels thereafter. Every 15 levels is a new tier. No talents will have ranks, and in general they’ll all be pretty substantial abilities — rather than the host of minor ones we have now with substantial ones mixed in.
Every time you get to choose a new talent you have three talents to choose from. You can only choose one of the three for each tier (every 15 levels) and you can never have two talents from one tier.
So at level 15 you can choose between talents A, B, and C. You get one of them, and you choose A. Then at level 30 you get to choose between talents D, E, and F. You cannot go back and take A or B — you only get one talent per tier.
The goal is to make the choices apples to apples comparisons, at least as much as possible. So in general you won’t be choosing between a dps talent and a survivability talent, but instead will be choosing between 3 dps talents, or 3 survivability talents.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still going to be some “right” choices no matter what they do. If you have more than one dps talent in a tier, we are going to be able to calculate which one is the best for each spec (or possibly by fight) and that is going to be the way to go.
However in practice we don’t have a lot of tiers of pure dps talent clusters, so instead we’re choosing between 3 survivability talents, or 3 utility talents. And those are going to be the kinds of things that are going to change up a lot more on a fight by fight basis.
While we didn’t get specifics, Ghostcrawler stated that they wanted to make changing talents as easy as changing glyphs. So it’s something that you can’t do in combat, but can easily do in between combat encounters. So you can use one talent setup for the first boss in a raid, then switch out a couple of those talents for the ones that will help you most on the next boss.
This is awesome.
One of the things I love about this system the most is that it removes the ability to make really, really bad choices. You can’t have a MM hunter who fails to take Chimera Shot. The vital abilities for your spec are built in. I’m sure that there will be opportunities to make suboptimal choices, but you can’t cripple yourself anymore out of ignorance.
I also love that every talent is actually meaningful — no more will we get talent points that are just tiny little meaningless things. Now when you get a talent you have an awesome new ability. Getting a new talent rocks!
In addition to the overview of the whole system, we also got a sneak peek at exactly what they were thinking of doing for all of the hunter talents at every tier — and I will post all of those in a moment.