Saturday, August 22, 2009

Focus, please!

I promise I'll get around to posting about faction champions eventually, but the Blizzcon class panel yesterday had some pretty huge news for hunters. Copied and pasted straight from MMO-champion (with typos fixed):
  • Hunter's mana is GONE!!!
  • Hunters now use focus, no longer care about intellect or mana regen.
  • Focus regenerates contunously, Steady shot improves the rate of getting focus back.
  • Rogue energy comes back at a 10/sec rate, Hunter focus comes back at 6/sec (12/sec with steady shot)
  • A shot costs 30 to 60 focus.
  • Hunters will have fewer cooldowns on abilities
  • Ammos will become an item, not a consumable.
Just to be up-front about it, I think this is fantastic news. I dislike mana as a mechanic for pretty much every class out there. I played Warhammer online for a brief stint and spent my time there as a healer. Every class in the game uses action points instead of mana, and it's a way more enjoyable mechanic for pretty much everyone involved.
Consider how hunters raided in Burning Crusade, for example. To begin with, we wore a lot of rogue leather because it just had way more agility, crit, hit, and AP than most of the mail in the game. We used Elixirs of Major Agility and Elixirs of Major Mageblood for buffs and then chained Fel Mana Potions every cooldown. The amount of farming necessary was just awful, but more importantly, it just wasn't a fun mechanic. We aren't healers and can never make a choice between throughput and longevity - we just do as much damage as we can as fast as we can and hope that our consumables keep us out of aspect of the viper. That's it.
The problems have been reduced today, but on fights with a lot of target switching, or in a 10-man that's missing a ret paladin to judge wisdom, we're back in the same boat. Mana usage is never a choice or a strategy for us; the most we can do is viper sting someone other than the primary DPS target. So if there's no JoW on whatever it is we're hitting, and if the single mana pot per fight doesn't suffice to keep us going, then we're out of luck and have to cut our damage in half to regen some mana. There's no choice or skill involved, and that makes it a bad mechanic.
Accordingly, I'm thrilled with the focus announcement. It's looking the current plan is for steady shot to give you a focus-regeneration buff, something that's unique as far as I know. I think it will also open the doors for skilled hunters that can really track and plan their damaging ability priorities to outshine their compatriots.
Ammo becoming an item rather than a consumable is a satisfying change as well. I imagine they'll function something like totems or librams, and I also imagine that they'll be bringing back quiver graphics with this change. I liked rolling the quiver haste bonus into the class itself, but I didn't like losing how cool my troll huntress looked with her dual mojos on her hips, her striker in her hand, and her quiver across her back. And let's not kid ourselves: a lot of the appeal of playing an MMO is seeing your character's look change and evolve with the effort you put into her.
The new expansion is looking pretty good so far, and the notes for other classes and about some of the gamewide changes to mechanics are making me quite optimistic. It looks like they're doing the "complete overhaul" thing that people keep asking they do to individual classes, except for everything. This may finally be the last expansion for the game, but it's looking like a good one.

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