World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is bringing back talent trees, similar to those we saw in the early expansions. Blizzard has been revealing the new class trees steadily over the last month or so, with varying reactions from players. One of the more controversial of these belongs to the priest, which is keeping the Power Infusion ability, allowing the player to grant a 20-second haste buff to any character.
“Some of this gets back to the earlier discussion of party and raid buffs and our philosophy there,” says WoW’s game director, Ion Hazzikostas when asked about the continued inclusion of the ability, “It is a cooperative MMO and in the design space of, ‘I can make my comrades, my allies stronger’, seems like a viable support type role that should exist in an RPG setting.”
Most classes have some sort of ability that lets them deal more damage or increase their healing for a short amount of time. The sticking point with Power Infusion comes from the fact that it can be cast on another player, rather than just your own character. So unless you bring one priest for each damage dealer, those given the PI buff will always have an advantage DPS-wise, over those who don’t.
Hazzikostas and the WoW team liken the problem to the existence of two separate games: the one they’re making, where you need to cooperate to kill raid or dungeon bosses, and the one a lot of players prioritise, which is topping the DPS meters. “We don’t create that game. But many people are playing it and many people are like, that is a primary motivation almost for them. And the question is, how sensitive should we be to that?”
“If we were making a game, and the point of the game was maximize your score, maximise this number, it would be problematic for us to introduce elements into the game that are very random or skew outcomes one way or another. But that’s also not the game that we have made. We have created a cooperative game that presents these challenges to be overcome. And so something in that environment, like Power Infusion, is a really interesting decision in a range of raid settings. […] When you’re learning an encounter for the first time, it’s actually like, what are the problems? What are the moments in the fight that are most challenging for us? We need to burst down this wave of adds before this next thing happens. And who should we PI? Should we PI a healer because we need a throughput burst to make it through this thing. Actually, DPS isn’t an issue, we’re just trying to survive. And we don’t want to add a healer. […] It’s those sorts of decisions that are interesting group dynamics that we would hate to take away.”
You don’t have to be a mythic raider or in the MDI to want to perform as well as you can with your chosen class. One way of improving, or comparing yourself to others of a similar item level, is to use combat logs which track pretty much everything you could ever want to know about each encounter. But like damage meters, logs cause their own problems, especially when it comes to abilities like Power Infusion, which can mean a significant damage increase for most classes it’s used on.
“Everyone at this point thinks nothing of the fact that log sites completely ignore padding. Like if you can maximise your number by just damaging a bunch of extraneous adds in a fight, that doesn’t really serve the interests of the group. And doing that will make you have the biggest number on meters. The community has collectively decided that this is unhealthy, we’re not going to count or reward that behaviour. Just because you’re multi-dotting all these adds and they’re gonna die on their own, we’re not going to count that damage at all. And so that shakes player behaviour there. And so I think, to some extent, we want to focus on designing […] the best experience possible and leave to the community and log sites and others to figure out the rules for how they want to determine who the best hunter is or who the best mages on this fight.”
It’s all part of the problem that has plagued WoW for years. All classes and specs are viable for most content, but groups will always favour the meta, whether they’re high-end mythic raiders or jumping in LFR once a week. No one wants to be bottom of the damage meters and most players will gravitate towards the classes or talents that out-perform others, whether they find them more enjoyable to play or not. Power Infusion just throws another variable into the mix.
I mained a shadow priest for a few years and my main takeaway from this? If Power Infusion isn’t needed to progress a boss, use it on yourself. And if someone doesn’t like it, Leap of Faith them off the side of a cliff. See how much damage they do then.