Monday, June 13, 2011

Drain Life Hotfix Prompts RP Worthy Debates

In a recent hotfix, Blizzard decided to implement the nerf to Drain Life that was originally slated for Patch 4.2 a bit earlier than the player base expected it. The warlock community was already up in arms when it saw the proposed change and not because it was an unwarranted decrease in overall DPS that would be detrimental to raid performance. Rather, the issue was the replacement of Drain Life in our rotation by Shadow Bolt, a decidedly less “Affliction-y” spell.

This has led to criticism by players who find the complaining ridiculous as the warlocks in question are arguing about what is basically a cosmetic issue, much like the numerous threads of petitioners for green fire that existed before Fel Flame appeared. As a warlock, I have a vested interest in the debates, but even as a general player, I find the arguments valid even outside of an RP immersion-ist context. There are many reasons that players choose the specs that they do. The major one for damage classes is maximizing DPS, and every raider and/or Recount whore has this priority in mind. Another is utility, i.e. PVE vs. PVP or situational advantages for certain abilities like Priests’ Archangel.

But another important factor in choosing specs is play style. No matter how strongly someone believes that spec is irrelevant as long as s/he is pumping out as much DPS as s/he possibly can on a boss, as soon as the raid leader wants a player to try something different, everyone gets defensive at least a little bit about their choices. Whether they use ElitistJerks to justify their talent points or cite special fight mechanics that make a certain spec superior to another, we all want to play how we like.

In such a highly visual game like WoW, cosmetics can play a role in whether or not we enjoy playing by affecting what we have to stare at for hours at a time. If something is bothering us about how we play, it can nag at the psyche like there’s a huge hunter pet’s ass in our field of vision that we wish we could do something about. It isn’t always about being overly resistant to change, though it definitely can be. Sometimes, we just want our characters to fit in with our ideas of our virtual world.

Ultimately, what fits in with the lore and mechanics of WoW are up to Blizzard. If they decide that Affliction locks should use Shadow Bolt as filler instead of Drain Life, it’s a subtle difference we have to accept until they deem our arguments valid. But it doesn’t stop us from putting our arguments out there. Every class has had issues like this, from some druids wanting perma-tree back to the validity of dwarf mages. Despite what all the trolls may think is a ridiculous waste of time, these debates are as serious as the game that we’re arguing about, and that differs for everyone.

-Avia rhymes with Moldavia.

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