This is an article in our fictitious series where we imagined a world in which we designed WoW 10.0. Read other articles in this series.
Our previous posts have talked about a lot of really big changes to the game coming in 10.0. Today we’ll talk about the changes that don’t seem that big… but can have a deceptively large impact on the feel of the game.
There will no longer be vendor trash in WoW 10.0. Any item with no purpose other than to be sold for gold… will be replaced with… gold. We know what you’re all thinking: monsters in the real world drop eyeballs and fangs, not gold! We understand that this change will require a minor suspension of disbelief for some players, but in the end, we all decided that having your bags fill up after 15 minutes of doing daily quests is annoying.
We also went one step further: if an enemy would only drop gold, it automatically goes into your inventory without having to loot. As a consequence, if you see a sparkle in 10.0, it means that dead body on the ground actually has an item to pick up. And that’s exciting!
Main hand and off hand slots will be replaced with a single weapon slot in 10.0. We will call this slot: “Weapon“.
Way back in the day, there were three weapon slots: main hand, off hand, and ranged. The ranged slot ended up being awkward — some specs had no use for a ranged weapon but could get a few extra stats from that slot. Some specs could not equip anything in the ranged slot — relics were added for druids, shamans, and paladins to solve that. Later, the ranged/relic slot was dropped entirely because of this.
Ranged weapons became main hand weapons for hunters. Tank classes all had a ranged ability or two so they wouldn’t require a ranged weapon to pull enemies effectively. The result was a much cleaner weapon setup.
It’s time to go one step further and address some of the awkwardness caused by having a main hand and off hand weapon slot. The first issue is for dual wield specs: they have to get two weapon drops instead of one compared to two-handed weapon specs.
The second issue is for casters who can use either a two-handed weapon or a one-hand plus off-hand combo: if you get a good weapon drop, you might not be able to use it right now if you have no good off hand (or vice versa). We think that a weapon drop that is an upgrade should feel like something you can equip on the spot and get a power bump rather than having a lot of uncertainty around it.
So how exactly will one weapon slot work for casters, dual wield specs, and specs that use shields?
All caster weapons will have the same stat budget. If you equip a one-handed caster weapon, its graphic will also show a matching off-hand. One-handed weapons will still have faster attack speed and hit for less than two-handed caster weapons, but they will all have the same total stats, spell power, etc.
We may add some transmog options to get different main hand and off hand looks if there is a big demand for it.
A side effect of this change is that caster shamans equipping one-handed weapons will not have a shield equipped. From a game mechanics standpoint, this isn’t much of an issue. It is already common in WoW for caster shamans to not use a shield if an off-hand has better stats. Furthermore, blocking is not a useful mechanic for caster shamans — they shouldn’t be getting hit, and they can’t block when casting spells anyway.
The main objection to this change would be aesthetics — shields are a signature look for shamans. We may add some transmog options for shamans to get this look, but we also think there is a good case for dropping the idea of a caster shaman using a shield visually as well. Most of the time a caster shaman’s shield is on their back while casting, so it’s actually a bit “weird” to carry a shield that you aren’t using to block things.
The argument for holy paladins is very similar to caster shamans. The main difference is that holy paladins have been designed such that being in melee and auto attacking is beneficial to certain play styles. That said, getting hit while playing as a holy paladin still isn’t a play style, so there is not any real benefit to using a shield. Holy paladins will be a caster-style paladin in 10.0. If we create a play style where a paladin can both take hits and heal, it will be a variation of a protection paladin play style.
All one-handed weapons will have the same stat budget as two-handed weapons. (This is essentially the same as WoW 9.x, where the total budget of two one-handed weapons is identical to a single two-handed weapon.) One-handed and two-handed weapons will still have different attack speeds and damage amounts. When a dual-wield spec equips a one-handed weapon, a copy of that weapon will appear in the off-hand visually, and a copy of it will be used for calculating off-hand attacks.
We thought about getting crazy and ditching the 19% chance to miss on auto attacks when dual wielding, and simply readjusting the damage numbers to compensate… keeping the higher miss chance has become almost entirely irrelevant in modern WoW due to the prevalence of rppm mechanics, and all special abilities don’t use this higher miss rate anyway, so it really is just a balancing act around auto attack damage. We might still do it, but we did some actual in-life testing of dual wield combat and found that we missed a lot more when fighting with two swords (even after a week of instruction from a local swordmaster), so we might keep the miss chance because it feels more “real”.
Shields will have the same budget as all other weapons. When a paladin, warrior, or shaman equips a shield, a matching weapon will be shown visually in the main hand. It will have attack stats in line with a one-handed weapon for a physical damage build of equivalent item level. There will be no variations of shields with caster stats.
There will only be one trinket slot in 10.0. Our goal is to make less overall trinkets, but that are more powerful and interesting. Trinkets will never have stats on them going forward, only special effects.
There will only be one accessory slot in 10.0, the neck slot. We are removing finger slots and all ring items from the game.
The three accessory slots in WoW 9.x (and the previous couple expansions) had no primary stats and a larger budget of secondary stats. This always led to a bit of awkwardness due to how secondary stats scaled on gear… it was not uncommon for a significantly lower item level ring to be better than a higher item level ring. Furthermore, accessories don’t have any visual models associated with them, so removing them is of little impact on that front.
The original design intent of accessories was to allow a degree of secondary stat customization. In the end though… one could never swing their stats enough with these accessories to feel much of a difference. We are designing new and more compelling ways for players to create builds in WoW 10.0, so it’s time to retire this idea.
Developer Note: Given the changes to weapons, trinkets, and now accessories… a truly massive milestone has been reached, already touched on in the trinket section: item uniqueness is now completely obsolete! There is now no possible way to ever equip two of the same item! We can remove unique constraints from the code base entirely, not just from trinkets! We tried to write this section without exclamation points, but we can’t!
One of our lore experts actually cried in joy when we described this change — they were so relieved that they no longer had to explain the aura of power on a ring that repels copies of that ring from their other fingers, yet still somehow allowed two different characters with the same ring equipped to hold hands.
In all seriousness though, it’s nice when we can remove a complexity from the game that was not adding any interesting game play choices. We think that item unique constraints definitely fell into this category.
Wrist and Back Slot
Wrist slot has been removed. Wrist and back both have smaller budgets than other slots. It was generally disappointing for players to get rewards in these small slots instead of the bigger slots. We’re removing one of the small slots with the wrist, and considering making the back slot have the same budget as other “medium” armor slots like hands and feet, or making the back slot into a “special” or cosmetic slot.
The visuals associated with wrists have been combined with the hands slot.
That was a lot of stuff! Here are the new combat-relevant gear slots in WoW 10.0:
We are down from 16 to 10 slots, unique constraints are no longer necessary, and there is parity in the weapon slot across all specs.
We are still kicking around a few other ideas regarding gearing, but nothing is set. For example, we may dedicate the neck slot to an expansion-specific item a la the Heart of Azeroth. Or, we may “theme” the stats that appear on different slots, for example movement-related powers might always and/or only drop on feet items.
Floating Combat Text
It’s easy to think of floating combat text (FCT) as not that big a deal. (This refers to the damage and healing numbers that appear above allies and enemies when you use abilities.) The current system is decent. It shows numbers over the correct enemies. That said, there are often so many sources of damage that it can be hard to tell what is doing how much damage. Often a player cannot get a sense of how strong something is except after the fact in a combat log.
The community have created many alternatives, and some of them are really good! That said, in 10.0 we have significantly improved the in-game FCT, as we feel it is really important to the visual presentation of the game. This new floating combat text will give more information like what spell did damage/healing, school of damage, and also add a more “impactful” feel to your damage and healing.
These changes seem small… and overall they weren’t that complicated, but they actually took a lot of man hours to complete. We knew that going in, but we decided it was worth it to give the gear system that extra level of polish and keep it feeling fresh.