I’d like to think that most of us who’ve ever played video games have at some point dreamed of maybe altering or adding something to it that’s awesome. Partly because it is awesome, but partly because we thought of it. Take the World of Warcraft, for example. Threads and mockups and discussions are all over about what would be a cool fantasy spec, or even class.
Hey it’s Soul, bringing to you the Word of Warcraft. Today I’m going to explore some of that creativity and talk about five of the more popular classes fans have dreamt up. Throughout this piece I’m going to touch on some of the design challenges studios face when trying to bring in something disruptive like a new class to an MMORPG. First off, the Necromancer. The chief concepts of the Necromancer lend a lot of credit to the Diablo series. Bone spells, strong debuffs and of course, controlling the undead fill out the repertoire of abilities at the Necromancer’s disposal. The theme fits well within the existing Warcraft universe thanks to the likes of Kel’Thuzad and later, everything that involved the Lich King.
The theme persists now thanks to the efforts of Sylvanas Windrunner and the current Lich King. As a Diablo 2 fan, I would have been stoked to play a Necromancer complete with a Iron Golem, and have some rotation of applying debuffs, chucking bone spears and summoning legions of skeletons onto my enemies. There’re a few challenges to face, though.
One is that we’d probably end up with another “pure” dps class. It’d be one thing if a necromancer existed instead of a warlock, but in today’s WoW it’d be pretty cumbersome to put in two or three more dps specs. An alternative approach would be to bake Necromancy in as a spec or take some of these concepts and throw them across existing classes. Also with how the game is now, the abilities of a possible necromancer concept are already spread across classes like the Death Knight and Warlock. We’ve already seen certain skills of the Warlock class get moved over to the current Demon Hunter class when they were introduced. Would players put up with Army of the Dead being given to the Necromancer? At least Warlocks didn’t have a metamorphosis ability at WoW’s launch. Taking away a Death Knight ability so iconic that it’s on their own reveal video would rock that community. Of course we also have the Tinker.
The Tinker is probably the most widely talked about fantasy class players have pushed. This class is heavily inspired or even lifted from the Tinker hero from Warcraft 3, the last Warcraft RTS game that inspired the MMO. The Tinker is basically a class that incorporates technology into its abilities. Throwing down turrets, activating gadgets and robotic powersuits have been mentioned in suggestion forums and discussion threads for years. And yet the idea’s never taken off. One often said reason is that the tinker already exists in the form of the engineer profession. Just roll an engineer and use your imagination, detractors would say.
I did. I so, definitely did. And it’s not enough. Another is that the Tinker just doesn’t quite fit into the *World* of Warcraft. In the RTS the Tinker was merely a hero purchased as a mercenary and had nothing to contribute to the greater story. At least off the top of my head I can’t imagine an expansion theme that would introduce such a class. The Bard, as I’ll call it, is our third class but beyond just being a Bard it’s about bringing in a full on support class or spec into the game.
The bard is all about buffing allies and debuffing enemies through the power of sex-song. SONG. The inspiration for this is derived from older MMOS which do use support classes that mostly involve weakening enemies and slowing attacks, provide a reasonable amount of healing and to strengthen allies, prevent damage or shorten cooldown times. The challenge here is that since there is no current support spec in WoW, a Bard like class would either become absolutely essential to a team composition, or would be nearly worthless due to having to downplay their potentially powerful abilities. Also, buffs and debuffs already do exist across the several dozen specs that exist now.
There’s little doubt that like with the Necromancer situation, discussions would come up regarding moving some buffs and debuffs to the Bard specifically to provide uniqueness to the class and as a consequence, encourage their use, and not everyone would be thrilled about feeling compelled to roll a Bard and ultimately not do much to contribute to visible healing or damage metrics. One day ETC, you might become a class trainer. The Dark Ranger has been a popular mention for a few reasons, not including these. Its inspiration started with Sylvanas Windrunner along with her skills as a hero in Warcraft 3.
Skills like Dark Arrow that spawned skeletons and Charm come to mind when thinking of its repertoire. It helps that Dark Rangers are also already in the game too. The popular reasoning is also to break the mold of never introducing a new ranged spec since WoW’s launch some 12 years ago. The challenge here is similar to the Necromancer class - how do you introduce a class like this without stepping on the toes of other classes? It’s good that this will fill a void left by Survival Hunters but at the same time, a Hunter specced with shadow-themed abilities isn’t too far fetched, either. A Dark Ranger is also a very Forsaken-themed class. It’d be more challenging to create a Dark Ranger-like class for the Alliance as opposed to for example, a Dark Hunter specialization both factions can share and might be more easily written in.
Finally while there’s a lot of different concepts out in the wild, there’s a pretty big desire for a ranged tanking class, and that’s got even me interested. A ranged tank sounds neat in theory. It can work similar to a Hunter pet with growl and tenacity traits, just well, better.
Or it can be one with the tank using a combination of kiting and active mitigation skills if and when they start getting punched in the face. One immediate challenge that comes to mind is how this could change tanking paradigms altogether. One of several critical skills for a tank is to quickly position or reposition their target in certain situations and this would have to be handled the same way as a ranged tank. This would be pretty difficult for say, a tanking pet. It would also create some disorienting or even chaotic situations if the ranged tank is designed to kite often, leaving melee to constantly chase their target, and there are a number of bosses that are stationary and inflict huge damage on the raid if the tank isn’t within melee range. Off the top of my head, I can imagine a ranged tank that leaves some sort of stationary astral form that takes blows and shares damage with the tank’s real body, but the tank can quickly throw down a new form that automatically taunts the target for quick repositioning.
This even opens up the idea of a tank of any armor specialization if it’s a sort of caster tank. Just a thought. So those are five popular ideas from players and throughout my short explanations I presented challenges these concepts face. In design, problems aren’t problems, they’re challenges to overcome with reiteration and some clever engineering. I have my own idea of what WoW’s next class can be, but I’ll talk about that in another video. First I’ll give you my thoughts on what goes through the minds at Blizzard when it comes to creating a class. First thing’s first, there’s got to be an inspiration based on the expansion this class will be released in, otherwise the introduction of the class feels pasted in. Wrath of the Lich King brought us Death Knights along with a narrative to their appearing all of a sudden.
The same happened with Monks in Mists of Pandaria and Demon Hunters in Legion. We’ll have to look two expansions ahead to even come up with an idea of a class that fits. This alone has been the most influential factor of when to introduce a certain class, followed by if the team feels that it’s ready to design the class to their liking. It’s been stated that the team wanted to introduce Demon Hunters as early as the Burning Crusade but they didn’t feel quite ready to bring it to life.
Personally while the Demon Hunter was a perfect fit for Legion’s theme, I think that it was a mechanical blunder when it comes to balance for the players. Demon Hunters bring a leather wearing melee and tank spec to the mix, which means that since WoW’s launch, Blizzard gave us two leather and two plate classes while giving us 4 melee, 3 tank, 1 healer and negative 1 ranged specializations. I think this is a bit imbalanced when it comes to bringing fresh concepts. Before I knew the next expansion was going to be Legion I fully expected a reasonable addition of a mail class that at least had a ranged and healer specialization. With Legion I can’t see a great fit for even a basic high level concept like that unless the narrative was altered. So this is probably a dumb idea but humor me for a bit. Imagine if during the Broken Shore event, we were sort of saved from total disaster by the new Lich King.
He sends new Necromancer agents to help out and instead of Demon Hunters, this anti-Legion Scourge acts as the vanguard for the Legion offensive. Meanwhile the Necromancer class is introduced, a mail caster and healer. You know, your wounds are healed with the uh, life giving power of undeath.
Sounds great! It’s hard to wipe out the memory of the Illidan book, the Harbinger series and all the other snippets of media that helped bolster the ideas of Illidan and the Demon Hunter class. They’re now fully cemented in Legion and it’d be hard to talk anyone out of it, but it gives a glimpse of what Blizzard could have done. So what class would you like to see sometime? Or if not a class, are you more interested in adding more specializations to existing classes? As a fan and/or an armchair designer, what would you bring to the table? Share your thoughts and this video, like and subscribe, and Stay Breezy.