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The Case for the Hero Class

I’ve been gone from World of Warcraft for some time, but, since returning, I’ve found myself reminded why I fell in love with WoW: the dungeons. Tonight, it was Violet Hold. Though exceptionally quiet (not a word spoke until the final boss was downed), it was a good run; quick and easy. I was able to keep threat the whole time, and only stuttered when I accidentally alt+tabbed out of window meaning to hit my alt+1 skill. I don’t think anyone noticed, though, because we got through it, pew-pewing our way to glory, and had the good time only a smooth, uninhibited run can provide.

The Arch-Druid should be the next Hero Class

Yet, even though I enjoy playing my mage arguably just as much as my Death Knight, I haven’t played him for more than a few minutes at a time. Why? Because I’m perpetually stuck waiting 10 minutes or more fun a dungeon. That’s not to say that there’s nothing to do on him, I could always quest, after all, but these experiences have really evidenced one of the biggest remaining problems in World of Warcraft: the proliferation of DPS classes.

But, I have to ask, why is that a problem? DPS is fun to play and I blame no one for taking it up over tanking/healing. There’s no responsibility (usually), so every run turns into a minigame to see how high you can push Recount. Every dungeon is a chance to see how powerful you are. Does tanking and healing do the same thing? No. At least, not in a way that appeals to the majority of players. Tanking is pass/fail and failing results in embarrassment. Healing gives the numbers but relies on the player being more of a helper than an ass-kicker.

The tank shortage was largely addressed when Wrath came out. If you played during TBC, you know how bad it got. I remember sitting in groups, using the LFG channel, and waiting for hours for a tank to respond. And then, the group had to live up to their standards or else they’d move on. Tanks being commodities, back then.

WoW’s first Hero Class made tanking easy and fun. Granted, the numbers game still isn’t as satisfying, since no one is competing with you, but the ease with which threat is kept emulates a great sense of power. DK numbers spiked initially and have since leveled out. We’re no longer in a situation where every dungeon would net you a DK tank, but it’s not uncommon, and the addition of more tanks into the pool help keep groups supplied.

And yet, here we are, almost two years out of the gate, looking down the aisle at Cataclysm, and there’s no additional Hero Class on the horizon. Why? Certainly, the great success of the Death Knight should have sent the message that we enjoy the additional options HCs provide.

The way I see it, there are a few possible reasons.

  • They don’t want players skipping New Azeroth; or,
  • They don’t mind DPSers waiting 15 minutes for dungeons; or,
  • They’re holding it for future expansions.

Death Knight in a cow suit! Wait...

Out of the three, I’d put my money on a combination of 2 and 3. It doesn’t make much sense to avoid a new class to keep people in Azeroth when thousands of players will go right into the 80+ content anyways.

We also can’t forget that, though she’s aging gracefully, WoW is getting pretty old. There’s still a lot of life left in the ol’ gal, but, let’s face it, the game hasn’t shown much growth in the last two years. Players are shifting in and out, and I’m sure it’ll spike with the expansion, but if Blizzard hopes to continue pulling old players back, they need to keep having exciting additions to offer. A new Hero Class certainly falls under that heading, and will be well received in the expansion after Cataclysm. As I mentioned before, I don’t think Cataclysm is going to last as long as Wrath. Blizzard will have a harder time pulling players back the more time goes on, this might be an ace they’re keeping in the hole.

Yet, I can’t help feeling we’re missing out on a good opportunity by not making new Hero Classes a standard expansion feature. I mean, let’s get the tank and healing classes out of the way first, and then bring in the more fun and creative ones. They’re giving all of the old world an overhaul, providing HC versions of existing classes would be like applying the same philosophy to every role. It’s an area of the game full of potential for exciting new ideas.

I’m not expecting any word on a new Hero Class anytime soon, so maybe this is all just a lot of wash. Still, it’s fun to think about what the future might hold. What about you, does WoW need more HCs, and healers at that?

Anyhow, I’m off to teach fourth grade. Happy Hump Day, folks!


3 comments

  1. Tauren Warlock

    Death knights did have their issues. I played one at release and it was more than a little frustrating having the most complicated class and having Blizzard re-work it several times for balance issues. It probably only happened a 2-3 times but I remember logging in with plans to run with some friends only to find that my talents had been refunded and my skills had been re-worked. I expected a night of running dungeons with friends with a toon I knew how to play. I got a night of hastily allocating points into anything, guessing at effective spell rotations and apologizing for my performance. I didn’t play a whole lot of hours after I hit 80 but far too many of those where spent reading updated spell descriptions, pouring over talent trees trying to figure out synergies, and searching for updated guides on DK builds (and they had to be brand new guides since the ones from a few weeks back where no longer valid).

    Sorry for the rant. The point is that the DKs had their issues and I can understand why Blizzard would be shy about trying again. Creating a class that is mechanically unique from the existing classes and balanced on day one has to be a daunting task.

    More recently I started running a lot of Pugs with my holy priest. On a few occasions, during dead times, the DPS in the group would complain about the lack of tanks. Frequently the people complaining where playing death knights and warriors. Like you said tanking is a harder job with more responsibility and not everyone wants to do it. 4 out of the 10 classes in that game can tank and you need one tank in a group of 5. If everyone that had one of those characters would use their alternate spec for tanking the queues would improve for DPS and healers. Adding a 5th tanking class might not even help much.

  2. Hosea Vanalstin

    Your blog is the best looking i have ever come across.

  3. boatorious

    Blizzard has said that the design for Cataclysm started before Wrath was even released and that was a major reason for not introducing another new class — they had no idea how the DK would play out.

    Also consider that DK’s get a bunch of neat abilities cherry-picked from other non-player classes. Blizzard has said they chose between DK, Necromancers and Runekeepers (or rune-somethings) for the first hero class. The neatest DK ability is Army of the Dead, which was probably conceived as a the signature Necro spell. The DK resources are “runes”, which were probably going to be the main mechanic of the Runekeeper class. It’s good game design not to “reserve” your best ideas, but it certainly must complicate adding new classes.

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