How Learning Class Abilities Differ in WoW Now VS Wow Classic – World of Warcraft Fundamentals
Today we return to my series comparing the fundamentals of World of Warcraft, then and now.
Learning Class Abilities
Next up I’d like to talk about class abilities as players level. To be clear, I’m not yet talking about talents, I’m specifically discussing how characters learn their new abilities.
In old school WoW, almost every single spell and ability a character had in their spellbook had multiple “ranks.” Warriors and Rogues would have older ranks replaced by newer ranks on the majority of their abilities. The rest of the classes used mana as a resource. Most spells that cost mana allowed you to use older ranks of that spell, and most players did exactly that because the highest rank would cost a lot of mana to use it. Back then, managing your resources was crucial. Finding a balance of power and cost required a deep understanding of your class, talents, and gear level.
When you started the game, you had access to a basic auto attack, and 1 basic offensive spell or ability. On most even-numbered levels your class would be able to learn new spells or new ranks of spells they already had. Some particularly cool or powerful abilities would be available at bigger milestones, often at multiples of 10.
The single biggest difference between then and now is that when you had access to these new abilities, you had to go find a class trainer and buy them. Yes, BUY them. This was one of the very best gold sinks the game has ever had, and it doesn’t exist anymore. This was a strong RPG concept that fits perfectly in the World of Warcraft. Your character starts out as a nobody. They had to go and pay an expert to teach us how to perform our skills. Some skills were too advanced until you grew more powerful. You could also browse through the list of things a trainer could teach and see what you could learn if you only grew a little bit stronger! It made sense, it took a ton of money out of the economy, and added multiple layers to a player’s leveling strategy!
Oh hey, you just leveled up! Do you want to spend time traveling back to a major city to go buy more skills? Do you want to continue doing what you were working on first? Can you even afford to buy any more skills right now? Do you even NEED to buy the skills that are now available, or can they wait? Should you save your gold for a big upcoming purchase, like a mount, or maybe that shiny item on the auction house you had your eye on? Every little choice along the way will make you more attached to and invested in your character. These are choices that no longer exist.
On top of that, every class had class specific quests that unlocked some of their abilities! Druids had to learn how to shapeshift into their forms, a shaman had to journey far and wide to access the different elemental totems, warriors needed to learn their other battle stances, and many more!
Some skills even required you to have reagents in your bags in order to use them. Mages needed light feathers for slow fall, and rogues even had to craft their own poisons!
There were also the talent tree skills, but I’ll get into that later.
Spell ranks were later adjusted in WotLK to cost the same amount of mana at all ranks and were then removed outright in Cataclysm. As of Mists of Pandaria, players no longer need to buy skills from Class Trainers. Reagents were condensed and removed in Cataclysm and MoP, respectively. Which means modern WoW works like this:
You start with auto attack and one ability. As you progress towards level 10, you instantly acquire a small number of baseline abilities. Once you hit level 10 and choose your specialization, some of those baseline skills may be replaced completely.
From then on at predetermined levels, you will instantly get access to specific spells and abilities tied to your talent specialization. They automatically unlock in your spellbook, they only have 1 rank, their ability costs will not change, you don’t have to spend any gold on them, you don’t need anything special to use them, you don’t have to complete special class quests to receive them, and you will not have access to many of the abilities from your other talent specializations. Everything is simplified, convenient, and automatic. Outside of the talent tree, everything is done for you. I’ll be covering the talents in further detail later on.
Without question, I prefer the older version. It does not make sense that your rank amateur nobody can pull complex new skills seemingly out of their butts from doing something like picking herbs. It does make sense that in a world where your character starts out as a complete nobody, you would need somebody else to show you how to do things. It does make sense that you would have to pay that somebody to teach you. It does make sense that skills could have more powerful versions of themselves, and would require you to be more powerful to master them. It all makes sense, and when things make sense, it’s easier to get immersed into a game world.
The automated system also removes your ability to pick and choose how your character develops. In an MMORPG, players having control over their character development is crucial. The more time you spend developing your character, the more attached you’re going to be to that character. It really doesn’t surprise me that nowadays there are so many players who have characters of every class at max level. Aside from the novelty of your “first” character, what attachment can you have to any of them? What important choices did you ever make from the time that Level 1 turned into Max Level? Class specialization and talents can be changed without consequence nowadays, so they don’t require you to invest in your character.
There is also the problem with the big ass gaps of nothin’ Nowadays, the level cap is 120. Assuming you maintain the every-other-level routine from before, you would need to learn 60 non-talent spells while leveling. Blizzard has been removing spells from classes. You do not have access to 60 spells. Not even close. Some classes barely have any anymore. That means there are going to be times when your character levels up again and again, and you get NOTHING (smug Gene Wilder as Wonka). There are gaps in your character development where nothing happens. The worst example of this is the final 10 levels in BFA right now. There’s the big flash of light, the on-screen prompts congratulate you, but that’s all flash with no substance. You aren’t really any stronger, and certainly not with the level scaling that exists nowadays. So what was the point? If they’re going to keep squishing numbers to prevent things from getting out of hand, maybe they ought to look at character levels, too.
Stay tuned for the next episode in this series, where I will discuss the talents system, but until then, I thank…
This series is a WoW comparison showing the differences between iterations and expansions.
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