The Ghostcrawler Legacy, Part I
The Ghostcrawler Legacy, Part II
Continuing on, here are more system changes that occurred during Ghostcrawler's tenure.
4. Tanks move from threat to active mitigation.
In Vanilla, a tank would gear for survival, but her basic gameplay would focus on generating threat. The tank essentially limited how much dps the damage dealers could put out. A good tank allowed the dps to go full bore. A poor tank throttled her dps players.
However, because the tank always geared for survival, a lot of tanks felt like they were fighting themselves. With the introduction of Vengeance, threat became less and less of an issue. Tank gameplay has shifted to "active mitigation" where the tank has more control over how much damage she takes. The tank takes generating sufficient threat for granted. Ironically, now that the focus is on active mitigation, many tanks now prefer dps stats on their armor.
Unlike a lot of the other changes, I am not certain that this was a good change. Threat linked the tank and the dps in a party. They had to be aware of each other, and interact with each other. I am not sure that "isolating" tanks from the rest of the party in this manner has been good for the game. I play a couple of other MMOs which are still threat-based (TOR and FFXIV), and I do think the basic group gameplay skeleton in those games is stronger than the current group dynamic in WoW, especially in small group dungeons. Using crowd control and focus fire is much more fun than simply AoEing everything down because the tank has infinite threat on all the mobs.
(Not to mention the beautiful tension between threat and mitigation that a tank finds in a game like TERA.)
As well, if the change was to make tanking more attractive to the general populace, well, I think it has failed on that level too.
5. Replacing talent trees with exclusive choices.
I'm not really sure if this idea originated from the WoW team, or if Blizzard as a whole came to a consensus. But pretty much across all their games, talent trees were replaced with a series of exclusive choices.
I think this is a stronger model for making interesting builds, especially at endgame. WoW does have some issues because the choices have to serve for all three specializations.
However, talent trees were a bit more interesting while leveling. There was a sense of being able to "build" your character which is missing in the current leveling game.
6. The gradual elimination of restrictions.
In my mind, this is the greatest weakness of Ghostcrawler as a designer. (Though I rather imagine that a lot of the players will disagree with me on this.) I do not think Ghostcrawler had a proper appreciation of restrictions, or he was unable to communicate the necessity of restrictions to the player base.
In a lot of ways, what you cannot do is more important that what you can do.
To take a simple example, for years paladins could not attack from range. You had to spec deep into the Holy tree to even get one range attack. This restriction made playing a paladin a fundamentally different experience than playing any other class. You had to learn about body-pulls. You coveted Linken's Boomerang.
There were things like this for every class. Hunters used to have a "dead zone" where they could not attack someone who was 5-8 yards away from them. Then the dead zone was removed, and an expansion later the close range restriction removed entirely.
Casters used to have a lot of trouble casting while moving. Then they got more and more instants and abilities to allow them to cast while moving. Healers got more and more AoE healing tools.
Restrictions chafe players. Players petition hard to have those restrictions removed. In my mind, one of the key jobs of a dev team is stand fast against this tendency, and stick with restrictions in the face of player opposition. Restrictions lead to interesting gameplay, and watering down these restrictions is not good for the long term health of the game.
In my view, this was the greatest failing of Ghostcrawler. He was unable or unwilling to insist upon the necessary restrictions on the players, and the gameplay in WoW did suffer for that.
Again, I am sure that a lot of players will disagree with me on this. Indeed if you look at any single restriction in isolation, I'm sure that an excellent case can be built for removing it. But I do not think the cumulative effect of removing all these restrictions has been good for the game.
By and large, Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street did an excellent job with WoW. I disagree with some of the changes made during his tenure, but I also heartily agree with others. As well, he set a new standard for communicating with the players, which was greatly appreciated.
I look forward to seeing his next game or project.