Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The End of the Hybrid Tax

Happy Maintenance Day!
Today I bring you a proposal, a proposal to end the Hybrid Tax.
Let's get some definitions out of the way so we know what we're talking about. First let's talk about what a Hybrid is. In World of Warcraft there are 4 Pure classes: The Hunter, The Warlock, The Rogue, and The Mage. Your other 6 classes (Paladin, Priest, Druid, Shaman, Warrior, and Death Knight) are all Hybrids because they can spec into Talent Treess that allow them to fulfill the role of Tank or Healer for a 5 man party or Raid.
What is the Hybrid Tax? It's the basic idea that the Pures should have the potential to do more damage because they don't have the option to offer their raid a support role like Tank or Healer with a quick respec. Damage is all they can bring. The thinking of the Developers is that if they allowed Hybrid DPSers to do as much potential DPS as Pures, few people would make the choice to play a Pure class. I can tell you anecdotally from leveling alts that I see a ton of hybrids (Paladins, Druids, and Shamans) and few Pures leveling up.
There are two issues with Wrath of the Lich King, and I believe both could be addressed in part by eliminating the Hybrid Tax. Let me briefly describe them both, and then posit how ending the Hybrid Tax could help to mitigate or eliminate the issues.
It seems that despite the Developers desire to give the Pures 3 distinct damage dealing talent trees, there is always one tree that lags behind the others. Beast Mastery Hunters, Frost Mages, Subtlety Rogues and Demonology Warlocks know this all too well. Although to be fair, Demonology provides a really nice buff to the raid, but the design of balancing around lower DPS to compensate for good buffs went away in Burning Crusade.
One tree will always do more damage in theory than the others. But let’s take Hunters for an example. The difference between Marksman and Survival is small and which Tree does more damage is relatively gear dependent. Beast Mastery trails both and by a significant margin.
The Developers seem to be able to provide two relatively balanced damage dealing trees, but the third appears to be somewhat problematic.
The second issue is one of flexibility. We all know there is a lack of Tanks and Healers for groups. This has been a great boon to a Tank who can get a near instant queue, and healers who get very short ques. DPS meanwhile have to endure very long queues by comparison. Though it should be noted that groups are forming with the LFD tool much faster than they ever have before. This disparity of wait times has caused some Hybrids who are main spec DPS to switch over to their Tanking or Healing spec to get groups and farm their Emblems faster. This is a great advantage to those classes. The Pures simply don't have the option.
So how does eliminating the Hybrid Tax help fix the issues with the lack of flexibility, creating groups or the difficulty in balancing 3 distinct damage dealing trees?
When everyone's super, no one will be.
My proposal to end the Hybrid Tax is to make every one a Hybrid. In Cataclysm, each Pure class has one of its trees redesigned to allow that Hybrid to take on the Tanking or Healing role.
Already, we see enterprising Hunters pushing the limits of their class and using their Tenacity pets to Tank. If you search on YouTube, you will find videos of a Hunter tanking Wrath of the Lich King heroics up to and including Halls of Lightning. The Developers could give Hunters a “Righteous Fury” type Aspect, call it Aspect of the Turtle, that would increase threat generated and reduce damage done to the Pet.
Mages are masters of Magic so it doesn't seem like a huge stretch to me that they could learn to funnel their magic into healing instead of damage. Perhaps the Developers could combine Fire and Frost into a FrostFire tree and then make a new Sun tree. They could even write in Lore about a reignited Sunwell and the return of the quel'dorei being the source of the Mages healing magics.
Warlocks are good at draining life away from enemies. Why not have that life then redirected to one of your team mates. The Devs could also take one of their less used Pets and give it a Beast Master type treatment and make them capable tanks. They could join Paladins and Druids as the Triple Threat hybrids, able to spec into Tanking, Healing or DPS.
Rogues have joked for years about 'Evasion Tanking'. Why not codify that into the game itself. Give them a threat poison; call it Aggravating Poison, to increase their threat. The Developers could design them as heavy avoidance tanks, sort of like the initial design of Death Knights.
The elimination of the Defense minimum means that it would have little impact on gear. You wouldn't need Defense Mail or Leather. All Tanks in Cataclysm will be Crit Immune through talents like Druids are today.
I don't want to get into too many specifics as I'm confident the Developers are much better at game design than your humble author.
With Rogues, Hunters, Mages and Locks able to spec into Healing and Tanking, you will reduce the number of damage dealing trees you need to balace to a maximum of two per class. You will drastically increase the number of Tanks and Healers available to groups and everyone will experience shorter wait times. They can spend more time having fun than waiting around Dalaran for a group. And since everyone would be a Hybrid, there is no need for the Hybrid Tax to exist any longer.
So what do you think? Would the game be better with 10 Hybrid Classes?
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