Monday, October 13, 2008

How to like a new class

When I first rolled my mage I absolutely hated him.

Low survivability, high mana dependency coupled with the ability to do no damage over an extended period of time... That's what my mage felt like for the first 30 levels of his existence.

Maybe it was because my main is a warlock or maybe it was just the utter lack of buttons that do something at low levels or perhaps it was the fact that the fireball looks about as impressive as throwing a match at somebody (I mean really, a fireball should at least look like a fireball [i.e. pyroblast]).

I hated him so much that he spent a large part of his existence in the barrens (crossroads) staring at the wall of an inn contemplating the frozen misery he was in.

So there we had it, with my warlock, paladin, druid and hunter either at 70 or well on the way there I was left with a bunch of misfits that I had trouble picking up. I was still on the road to the elusive 9x70 (or 10x80 soon I suppose) but the relative low levels of the remaining characters and little to no affinity with the playstyle for each of them made it hard if not occasionally impossible to just continue the level grind for them.

So how to fix the age old problem of picking up a class you don't enjoy?

With my goal firmly set on 10x80 in the distant future I had to find means and ways to pick up characters that I didn't like. More importantly I had to pick them up in a way that would result in me liking them more over time and not deepening my dislike.

As a result I had to ask 4 vital questions for each of my disenfranchised characters:

1. What do I want for this character?
2. Is my spec suitable for what I want?
3. Are my professions fitting / fun with this character?
4. Will I be alone or in a group (and so of what size)?

What do I want for this character?

The first question seems obvious but in reality it isn't. With 60 talent points to distribute you can dive into a single tree fully, 2 trees or even take chunks out of each tree to complement your playstyle. Even the choice between DPS / Tank / Healer isn't always as clear-cut as one would like.

What you want for your character also can vary for a level 70 build vs a 'rest of the game' build so you need to have a somewhat clear idea what your character should look like up till 70 and after that.

The reason for this is simply that without clear goals you're just levelling for the sake of levelling. You're not working towards a specific talent, you're not working towards some specific gear setup, you're just levelling for levelling's sake in the hope that the character will become more interesting at 70. In other words there is nothing on the way to keep you going. If on the other hand you have a clear goal of making a fire mage you can actually have a set of side-quests and mini-quests in creating appropriate equipment, doing relevant quests and making sure that the character will be the best damn fire mage there can be.

Set yourself goals, appropriate or inappropriate ones. A character without goals is hard to enjoy if you don't have affinity with the playstyle.

Is my spec suitable for what I want?

Let's face it. Most of us start out with a more or less pre-defined cookie cutter spec. If you however have goals in mind for the character you're playing it's worth the time and effort to see if a re-spec is a good idea or not. Cookie cutter specs are by definition optimal specs for certain goals and more often than not these cookie cutter specs are based on a level 70 character in a specific role.
Well you're neither while you're levelling. You're not level 70, you're not optimally geared and you don't have a role other than perhaps survival / killing speed.

Based on your goals pick talents. If you want to see the large fluttery numbers pick out the crit and damage enhancing talents and find the tree that does the most for you at your current level. You can build on that or respec at a later date.

Don't let yourself be fooled by cookie cutter specs. Instead play the game, look at what is missing or what could be different and pick talents accordingly.

Low survivability? Do we have talents for that? If so, try them out. I had all but given up on my frost-mage until I re-specced him fire to see how that would work and it made all the difference.

Are my professions fitting / fun with this character?

No matter what people may say: Professions matter.
They have an impact on your gameplay. If you're a miner you'll want to hit all those mining nodes that are stuck to various mountains. You'll also have to get there somehow since they're usually surrounded by a decent amount of monsters.
In fact if you want your gathering skill to progress at the same level as your character you will have to go hit those resource nodes or powerlevel it at 70.
It's a wise choice to equip your character with professions that you enjoy. Sure mining will make you a lot of money but is the character you're looking at a good choice to be a miner? Maybe you have mining on some other character and you don't really need it.
Yes you can always powerlevel a profession when you hit 70 but what do you want to do with professions in the meantime?
Professions are an excellent way to enhance your gameplay or to make it more tedious depending on the character you're on. I for one have never had more fun with professions than when I was working on levelling my pally with engineering and never had a worse time than powerlevelling a gathering profession at 70.

Will I be alone or in a group (and so of what size)?

Group size matters. Whether you have a single hunting buddy or are constantly in instances with 5 or more people it matters. Spec accordingly, pick up gear accordingly. If you're a loner by nature like me you'll need the survival talents and gear. If you have a permanent tank hunting budy then you won't need them.
Those are all simple choices based on group size.
Vice versa, if you don't have a hunting buddy, get one. They're an invaluable asset in a lot of situations. Sure you have to share xp / loot but you also mitigate risk. you die less, you can take on more difficult targets and you have far more control over a situation than you could possible have alone. A good hunting buddy will also be able to get you through those times where it simply feels like an utter grind.
You haven't had fun till you strap an aoe specced mage to an aoe pally tank.

In my opinion no class is essentially unlikeable. Every class can more or less mimic the playstyle of another if you're willing to change the environment. Change spec, group setup, gear or even zone and see how it works for you.

Don't expect a mage to be a warlock or a warrior to be a rogue however. You will have to unlearn certain habits you picked up on your main if you want to have fun with a new character...
I miss my diablo mana shield much like my ultima online spell reflection or my Final fantasy master materia but in order to pick up something new, we have to let go of those habits that tie us to the old.

You can't force yourself to like something no matter how much you try, so change the conditions. Change the conditions until you find something that makes you smile, only then will you truly appreciate your new class.

And after all is said and done I now rather like my mage. Sure, his fireball still looks rather pathetic and he has to sit down every few mobs to drink a few gallons of spring water but I now know what I want for him and he no longer feels like I am just levelling him to say I did.

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