Cataclysm has been out for nearly two months now and I think it’s been long enough to see a few clear broad trends. The first is one that has received a great deal of discussion lately — tanking and healing is more difficult in general in Cataclysm and many players that otherwise were disposed to performing as one of those roles, or were previously performing those roles are either no longer playing those roles or won’t even try. It’s easy enough to see why this trend would have developed and will probably be long lasting. I’ve experienced it first hand and have several friends that were healers themselves, or were planning on healing in Cataclysm echo my sentiments. Players are graduating away from key roles, if at all possible, and are taking up less pivotal roles.What brings the issues related to this so much into the forefront is the Looking for Dungeon system. The LFD system puts people who don’t know each other; who don’t know each others play styles; and who have a more difficult time communicating with one another in a more intense atmosphere than existed at the end of WotLK. Unlike Syncaine, however, I don’t believe the reluctance of players to play the pivotal roles has as much to do with people being scared of being noticed so much as it has to do with the enjoyment factor. Ask the average tank or healer whether they think the new environment is enjoyable. For my own part I know I’m a good player. Notice I did not say I was at the top of the crop, or that I was the best, simply that I’m a good player. I’ve main tanked raid content up through the Black Temple and I’ve raid healed from the Black temple to ICC. And I’ve DPS’ed all of that content as well. When main tanking I was well respected and it was with regret my guild allowed me to step down from that position because I was burned out. Of course I immediately started healing, so I didn’t really get out from under the serious pressure to much of a degree. When I DPS’d I was always in the upper few, unless I simply had a bad night, and I did it doing my fair share of interrupts, dispels, and the like. So I know my unwillingness to tank or heal at the moment has absolutely nothing to do with being skittish. And I doubt I’m so different from others that my story could not easily be that of hundreds or thousands of others as well.
Secondly I’ve noticed another trend. I’ve noticed players have moved away from the classes that received the most make over this expansion, and are in large part moving to classes that offer greater simplistic game play. Admittedly I don’t have empirical evidence to support this assertion as it’s based simply on my observations these last seven weeks. But It’s noticeable to me and others that I’ve talked to about it. Retribution Paladins for instance. I rarely see players playing Retribution Paladins in Cataclysm. I still see many Paladins on runs and in PVP, yet those I do see are almost always Holy or Protection. Which was hardly the case just a few months ago when I would see Ret Pallys around every tree. Hunters seem to be the big exception to my observation as they received a pretty dramatic make over and yet they’re as thick as weeds. Personally I think it’s because the switch to focus simplified things tremendously for the class. That and the ammo change.
What I believe we’re seeing in WoW today is a player base that has pulled back and playing it safe. Players want as much “power” as they can get but without having to do too much to get it. Complicated rotations and pivotal roles are on the outs and simplistic, safe game play is in. Welcome to the new WoW.