Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Future of Engineering

The latest blow to Engineers has come from the Developers. Rocket Boots will no longer work in Arenas.

I think this is a precursor to a big announcement, possibly at Blizzcon about Engineering. Remember that here at Honor’s Code, “All Predictions Are Wrong or Your Money Back”. *Honor’s Code is technically free, so if I actually ever got one right, I’d owe you….well... nothing, so you get the point.

Honors Engineering History

Let me give you a brief synopsis of my history with Engineering and then let me tell you where I think the Developers are going with this.

I dropped Engineering about a week after 3.1 hit and I’ve been working on leveling up Mining on Honorshammer. This was the second time I’d dropped the profession.

When I leveled Honorshammer during Vanilla WoW, Engineering was fantastic. It provided my Paladin with the one thing he truly lacked, a ranged pull. As a Paladin in those days, you got very familiar with how to body pull.

Once I hit the level cap at 60, I found less and less uses for Engineering. When Burning Crusade announced the new profession of Jewelcrafting, my GM put out a call for people who would be willing to switch. Frustrated with how little I was actually using the profession, I agreed to switch to Jewelcrafting.

Then during Burning Crusade, the Developers massively buffed Engineering to provide Helms that were on par with the Tier 5 helms. At the time, I was still in late to mid Tier 4 content, with little prospect of being able to do Tier 5 anytime soon. They also brought out a way cool Flying Mount. So I dropped Mining and picked Engineering back up.

Then Wrath came. The motorcycle mount which was very cool, was also very expensive, and Honors can still have/use one even though he’s dropped the profession. The goggles were not nearly as good as they had been in Burning Crusade. Mote Farming was much less lucrative as well. Then an instance that should have been a treasure trove of new schematics (Ulduar) rendered zero, zip, nada.

So frustrated once again with Engineering, I dropped it. But I believe my history with Engineering gives me a good idea of what the issues are and where I believe the Developers may be going with it.

The Future of Engineering

A wise man once told me, “Future events cast their shadows before them.”

You can see this in game. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Hunters have been wondering why the best vendor bought ammo in Wrath did the exact same DPS as the best reputation bought ammo from Burning Crusade. Well as we recently found out that the reason was the planned change to ammo had caused the Developers to stop itemizing bullets and arrows, but that when the ammo changes didn’t go through, they needed another way to boost Hunter DPS.

The reason for the ‘missing’ ammo was a change we only recently found out about.

The main problem the Developers have had with Engineering has been with balancing it.

This was true even at Level 60. Rogues and Kitties have a Sprint, it’s not game breaking, but give Sprint to a Ret Paladin through Rocket Boots and it becomes a problem. Priests can Mind Control, it’s not game breaking, but give Mind Control to a Mage through the Mind Control Cap and it becomes a problem. Priests and Mages have Slowfall, it’s not game breaking, but give Slowfall to a Warrior through a Parachute Cloak and it becomes a problem. Warriors can spell reflect, it’s not game breaking, but give spell reflect to a Hunter through the Fire Reflector and it becomes an issue.

These skills are fine in and of themselves, but when paired up with certain classes, they become an issue. They fill in gaps and cover weaknesses that balance those classes by design.

We’ve seen virtually nothing on Enginering since Wrath released. Some of the schematics make parts that currently have no use. It’s almost like they stopped working on Engineering halfway through Development of Wrath. This is a shadow of a future event.

Blizzcon is coming up, and I believe there is a good chance Blizzard announces the next Expansion at Blizzcon. Wrath was announced two years ago at Blizzcon 2007. I blogged about it.

When the next expansion is released, I believe they will also announce a new class, the Engineer. This will be a summoned pet class and pilot class and use many of the gadgets currently in Engineering to do their DPS. They will be able to summon turrets, robots, maybe even the Robot Factory that was in Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. They will also get bonuses when driving Vehicles (more speed or more damage) and possibly even get to repair them. This works both in PVP (Strands and Wintergrasp) as well as PVE (Flame Levithan).

Of course making Engineering a class will require major changes to the profession. It could either be scrapped entirely, or made a secondary profession. But if they scrapped it entirely, wouldn’t that piss off the people who currently have Enginering? Yes, it would. So you want to minimize the number of people who have the skill and thus would be affected. Well just make Engineering a worse and worse choice for most classes, all the while giving lip service to having it be on par. By the time you actually announce it’s being removed as a profession, there won’t be many left with the skill. Natural attrition will have reduced the number of Engineers for you.

I remember well that back in 2007, the Develoeprs communicated they wanted Tank equality, but then during Wrath’s Beta, revealed that the encounters had been stacked to prop up Warriors. So it would hardly be the first time Blizzard communicates something publicly through the Community Managers (“we’re working on Engineering”), while doing something very different behind the scenes.

So that’s two bold predictions in one blog. Now we get to sit back and watch what happens.
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