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World of Warcraft panel sees Cataclysmic changes

BlizzCon 2009: Blizzard devs discuss the class, item, and profession updates that will be implemented in the new expansion pack.


Who Was There: Lead game designer Greg Street, item designer Travis Day, and profession designer Jon Lecraft

What Did They Talk About: The trio ran through an overview of the various changes in store for World of Warcraft when the Cataclysm expansion hits. The news was met with cheers and with some cries of dismay. The panel kicked off with a run through the racial traits of the two new races being introduced: goblins and Worgen. The new alliance race, the Worgen, will have four: aberration, flayer, dark flight, and viciousness. Aberration will reduce the duration of curses and diseases on Worgen by 15 percent. Flayer increases skinning by 15 percent and allows Worgen to skin faster without needing a knife. Dark flight is an instant-cast 70 percent boost in movement for 10 seconds with a 3-minute cooldown. Finally, viciousness increases all damage by 1 percent.

The Worgen get four racial traits: aberration, flayer, dark flight, and viciousness.
The Worgen get four racial traits: aberration, flayer, dark flight, and viciousness.

It was noted that Worgen form would essentially be cosmetic and offer no bonuses. Players will automatically shift to Worgen form only during combat and will have the freedom to decide if they appear as human or Worgen out of combat. In terms of classes, Worgen can be all but paladins and shamans.

The new goblin horde race will have five traits: vpack hobgoblin, personal servant, best deals anywhere, rocket barrage, rocket jump, and better living through chemistry. The pack hobgoblin trait will let you call in a personal servant who will give you bank access for one minute. Best deals anywhere lets goblins receive the best gold discount regardless of faction. Rocket barrage fires a goblin’s belt rockets at an enemy to deal fire damage. Rocket jump uses the rocket belt to jump forward. Finally better living through chemistry increases your alchemy skill by 15. Goblins can be any class except paladins and druids.

Besides the introduction of the new playable races and the classes they can be, new class and character combinations were revealed. Horde players can look forward to orc mages, Tauren priests and paladins, troll druids, undead hunters, and blood elf warriors. Alliance players can anticipate dwarf shamans and mages, gnome priests, night elf mages, and human hunters.

The panel then shifted to warlocks, which kicked off the start of the highs and lows for attendees who responded with cheers, boos, and a mix of both as they absorbed the information. The unique casting class is being revamped so that soul shards, which are crystals needed for a good chunk of their spells and summoning, will work totally differently. The shards will now be used only in combat and, most importantly, will not take up precious space in your bags.

While the revamp is still being refined, it appears the shards will work somewhat like runes do for deathknights. The shards will be used only in combat and won’t be needed for summoning. Warlocks will have three shards per fight, although the team is considering giving demonlogy specialized warlocks a fourth. The shards will be displayed in the user interface, like deathknight runes, and regen quickly when the warlock is out of combat. It will be possible to get more shards during long fights or when they make mistakes.

The team is also considering an “evocation”-style action to help shards regenerate more quickly. Warlocks will also gain a new spell--soul burn--which will cost one shard and feature a 30-second cooldown. The spell will empower the next spell you cast and will act as a modifier. Some examples given as to how the spell would enhance spells included fear becoming instant, soulfire becoming instant, summoning a demon becoming instant, death coil causing longer horror and offering more healing, and the next three searing pains cast causing critical hits.

The next class getting an overhaul in cataclysm is hunters, who will lose mana and rely on focus for their attacks. Focus will continuously regenerate, although steady shot will improve the amount of focus you regenerate. The example shown was that passive regeneration would replenish six focus per second, while using steady shot hunters will earn 12 focus per second. To give context, the plan is for hunters to have a max of roughly 100 focus, with shots costing somewhere between 30 and 60 focus. Hunters can expect fewer cooldowns on abilities as well as the possible removal of their various aspects. Ammo will also become an item as opposed to a consumable.

The focus then shifted to itemization, which elicited a range of reactions from the assembled masses. The underlying motivation for the big changes revolves around removing unnecessary stats and making all core stats appealing. Mana per 5 is now replaced with spirit. Spirit is changing to essentially be mana regen. Mage and warlock gear will also no longer have spirit on them. Healers will get a meditation like skill to help as well. Spell power is gone. Intellect will now serve double duty, as both mana and spell power. Attack power is gone. Agility will now provide 2 attack power for rogues, hunters, shamans, and druids. Defense tanks will receive the needed anticritical talents from survival of the fittest. Armor penetration is gone and replaced by the new mastery mechanic, which enhances the talent tree you have the most points in.

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The block value is being done away with and will simply mitigate a percentage of damage. A tweak to haste will increase the rate at which players gain energy, runes, rage, and focus. Finally, stamina will be increased to compensate for the loss of the above features to balance things out. In addition, a new legendary weapon was shown--an axe called Shadowmourne--which players hoping for Frostmourne will need to be satisfied with because Frostmourne isn’t slated to be appearing anytime soon.

The last bit of the panel focused on professions, many of which were still taking shape. Archaeology is a new secondary profession that will let players collect artifacts throughout the world. As players find them, they’ll unlock paths in the newly announced path of the titans system. Players will earn unique rewards, vanity pets, instant travel to dungeons, titles, and recipes for other professions. Players will track all of the above in a journal that will hold the artifacts (ensuring they don’t take up bag space). The specifics of the profession are still being figured out and may include some kind of minigame.

Reforging is a new ability that will let players customize their gear by reducing the stat on one item and increasing another. The ability will offer specific reforging options to leatherworkers, tailors, jewelcrafters, and engineers. The only trick to the ability is that players will be limited to what they can do with the points--players won’t be able to increase existing stats on the weapon, only new ones.

As far as existing talents go, there will be a number of tweaks. Multi-gains will allow players to craft different types of items that yield more points. The example given was players having the option of creating five bracers for a single gain each or one belt that would yield a five gain. Gathering is being looked at in the hopes of offering more flexibility and yielding different bonuses. Engineering is being tweaked to focus more on convenience items, such as the wormhole generator, toys, and pets. It also appears that engineers will have a belt to hold profession-specific items.

The Takeaway: The changes to the game created by the Cataclysm expansion will run deep and will bring fundamental changes to how even veteran WOW players approach the game.

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