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Covenant Abilities Might Still Become Free to Swap, Exclusion Based on Covenant, Covenant Ability Testing, Classes Being Homogenous: Preach Watcher Interview

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Preach interviewed Ion Hazzikostas, mostly focusing on the community reaction and issues around choosing a Covenant and the relevance of the abilities each class gets with that choice, as well as feeling shackled in their choice because of that. The interview is very detailed in the discussion and analysis of player choice, its permanence and similar, but the biggest messages we got from it were:

There is still a possibility they call off the whole Covenant abilities being un-changeable!

Beta invites will go out each week until the end of the Beta.

There's a possibility we get a "mode" or similar where we can test another Covenant's abilities while still in our current Covenant, as the access to those abilities probably won't be enough during leveling, where we will get to test them before choosing a Covenant.

Destructible Conduits will not go live as they are now.

Ion doesn't think having the "wrong" Covenant will get players excluded from groups as much, comparing it to Legion and players not getting excluded (that much) if someone had the wrong legendary. Preach argues that adding any additional exclusion parameters is always bad and most players will simply check guide sites to see which are best for which class and discriminate players based on that. Ion still focuses that it will not play out that way, Covenant abilities won't be as impactful and will just be options, top players might use different ones for the same class and spec.

The choice of picking a Covenant is equivalent to picking a spec back in Legion, due to the artifacts related to that, and players didn't seem to have a big issue with that.

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Part of the reason the Covenants are available so early in the Alpha/Beta testing process is so they can get player feedback earlier than for Azerite powers etc. There will be significant changes to a lot of the 48 abilities, even redesigns.

Ion's focus is on getting the balance right on the Covenant powers, so they don't feel as mandatory, but Preach responds by saying that that's not really possible even theoretically, especially considering spec switching, as some abilities are just only good for certain specs of a class.

The probably most interesting part of the interview wasn't really new information, but rather the lengthy discussion between the two on class identity and player choice. The elimination of RNG within class specs, aka the dependence on RNG that (usually DPS) players have, even after they get all the gear they want - you can get everything you want and need, and your performance will not be consistent throughout fights at all. Ion mentions passive abilities should not be as impactful as active ones. They talk about this issue across multiple questions and it's a really fascinating discussion, as Ion focuses on player choice, so different players' warriors are different due to those choices, whereas in a game like Overwatch, all Tracers are the same. Obviously currently RNG is too much of a factor due to Corruptions etc, but in general, Ion feels it's an important part of the game due to player identity. If you're even remotely interested in this discussion, you should definitely check out the full interview, as it presents tow fascinating perspectives.

 

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Other Shadowlands interviews:

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Once again Blizzard sticks to its position, doesn't listen to player, and will create a new system that will get people to be meta or be left out of groups. Very horrible decision.

Also, comparing it to legendary is stupid, since legendary were random loots, here it's about a choice you make at the beginning of the expansion. Completely stupid.

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Yup, what we will lack here either way is meaningful choice.
Either the abilities will be balanced, which essentialy makes the choice irrelevant. We will just get three different colored boom buttons pushed to the edge of irrelevance.
Or the abilities will be specialized for a kind of content and swapped up freely, which again, no real choice, just pick what's best atm.

Sure we can go with "eh, you got locked into that? Well, time to make an alt until next patch, cause this is 10% subpar".
But that is not exactly winning either. 

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No matter what blizzard do, there will always be a 'meta'. Since now we have so much access to sims and websites showing you the 'correct' build. I am choosing to remain hopeful that the systems in Shadowlands are more along the lines of racials - sure there might be a 'best', but if you put in the time and learn the intricacies of your class, you can make any covenant work for what you need to. There is always the likelihood of one being far superior for a certain class/spec/type of content, but chances are that will get nerfed. And Ion has said, if you decide you don't like the covenant you've chosen, it will be easy to swap. What is hard will be going back to a covenant you have left. I'm looking forward to the chance be something a little different and not just the same cookie cutter class build as everyone else, because the top 1% tell us it's the meta.

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14 hours ago, Mugendai said:

Once again Blizzard sticks to its position, doesn't listen to player, and will create a new system that will get people to be meta or be left out of groups. Very horrible decision.

Also, comparing it to legendary is stupid, since legendary were random loots, here it's about a choice you make at the beginning of the expansion. Completely stupid.

You aren't thinking of the reality of the situation. More flexibility in choice leads to less freedom and MORE people being kicked out of groups. Let's say Fire is 50% better than Frost. Changing specializations can be done at any time and a Frost mage applies to your group. You instantly assume this guy is an idiot because he isn't playing Fire when he can be at no cost, so why isn't he? Now let's reverse the situation and say that Night Elf groups are 50% better than Human groups. A human applies to your group, you don't assume this guy is an idiot, because Races cannot be changed just like that. The lack of flexibility is what creates more freedom, not less.

If you are playing at the extreme high end where you are min-maxing absolutely everything, you cannot have freedom. You have zero room to complain and no game ever has allowed you to be a meta-slave AND have freedom of choice. This is not just exclusive to WoW, the scales are mutually exclusive.

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