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Starym

The Covenant Ability Talent Solution and Covenants as Punitive Vs. Meaningful Choice

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The Covenants ability exclusivity issue continues to be the hotspot of Shadowlands criticism (and very likely will until patch 9.x, where x is when Blizzard decides to changes the system), and it's been in the spotlight even more recently, with certain Covenants already being preferred on the beta and Preach and Dratnos discussing the issue in-depth. One of the most common "easy" solutions that has been brought up is the separation of Covenant class abilities and, to a lesser extent, the general Covenant abilities as well, into a simple talent tree option. Today we have a look at what that might look like, as redditor Jugh3ad made a rough edit of the current talent tree with the addition of a Covenant row, as we'd receive the abilities as "gifts" from each Covenant through the story instead of them being restricted to membership.

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Obviously this isn't the first of this type of mockup, just the most recent, so let's take a look at a few more, with most of them focusing on only having the class abilities as talent choices, while keeping the Covenant specific new abilities tied to them, unlike the above example.

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Source.                                                                                                        Source.

We also got a very good reddit post on the subject today, with garzek talking about the differences between punitive and meaningful choice and making a fine point, as he claims that Blizzard got the two mixed up. Here's an excerpt from the reddit post, but you should definitely read the whole thing for more details and garzek's background for context.

Quote

One of the things that's really bothered me is Ion (and others at Blizzard) falling back on this idea of "meaningful choice" as an anchoring for covenant locking. I bring this point up because I don't think it's accurate to call covenants a "meaningful choice" -- they're something I like to call a punitive choice. I'd like to explain the difference, and if everyone thinks I'm smoking crack cocaine on this, please tell me -- I'd love to have a conversation about it.

I'm going to be admittedly lazy and use the easiest example in the entirety of covenants for this -- Protection Paladin (though it's actually true for all 3 paladin specs). Specifically, Kyrian Paladins. Both their class ability and signature ability (covenant ability) have value in incredibly limited content spaces. They absolutely excel in those spaces, don't get me wrong -- I am not, in anyway, trying to say that Blizzard has failed to deliver in those spaces.

Ion would argue that this is a meaningful choice -- I am making the choice to excel in those content spaces at the expense of being deficient in others. I would argue that this is an excellent example of a punitive choice.

The way content balancing works in WoW (and truthfully in most games) is that exceptionalism in one scenario cannot lead to overwhelming success, otherwise those without that exceptionalism would be barred from the content. Divine Toll cannot be mandatory for M+ on a protection paladin because if it is, not only would every other Protection Paladin that isn't Kyrian be barred from it, but other tanks without equivalency would also be barred from it.

What this means is the satisfaction of pushing Divine Toll in its best use cases can only provide limited reward; however, in its worse uses, it's a near-dead button, only worth pushing if you have next to no other options available to you.

I consider this a punitive choice. I'm driven from picking Kyrian because it's limited in its benefit in its best use cases, but provides NO benefit in its worse use cases. It's the illusion of a choice, but thought through, leads to dissatisfaction. I am never going to be in a situation on a single-target boss and think "Man, I sure wish I was a Kyrian Protection Paladin right now."

To me, a meaningful choice -- and where it differs from a punitive choice -- is that a meaningful choice is additive. "If I could only just..." is the phrase I associate with a meaningful choice. A meaningful choice is driven out of desire, not frustration. I want to be a different covenant when fighting a single target boss as a Kyrian protection paladin not wholly because I want the benefits of a different covenant, but rather because my covenant choice offers me NO benefit.

A punitive choice, conversely, is a choice made out of fear of punishment or deficiency. I might really enjoy everything about the Kyrians, but the fact Divine Toll offers me no value in a fairly common situation, I avoid it. I default to something like Night Fae which will always have value.

Whichever side of this growing divide you're on, the fact that Covenant abilities are a problem to a large part of the WoW community is undeniable, and with BfA having had a few problematic systems like this already, with very slow moving solutions, the question of whether to rethink these systems is a serious one and could mar Shadowlands as a whole.

Source.

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While blizzard is saying its a "meaningful choice" they are also saying they don't want covenant choice to be overly impactful in certain types of content. How can those two things exist at the same time?

Edited by fattycop
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17 minutes ago, fattycop said:

While blizzard is saying its a "meaningful choice" they are also saying they don't want covenant choice to be overly impactful in certain types of content. How can those two things exist at the same time?

What I don't understand is the fact that Covenants ARE a meaningful choice before you add in any of the abilities. I mean it's arguably THE most meaningful choice, as you basically pick the one zone you'll most focus on, the soulbinds with special abilities, new quests, the renown thing, transmogs... I don't understand why they feel the need to add the abilities to the mix when there's already SO much that you're getting with your choice and it is actually meaningful already.

That said, the ability thing won't affect me personally, as I'll just choose whichever covenant I like best regardless, but I can still see why this is such a big issue for a lot of people.

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Making them reward abilities for campaign completion that are a toggle on the talent select would be MUCH MUCH more in line with a meaningful choice, similar to how you could access the different Garrison zone abilities you'd unlocked while in Tanaan Jungle, and could change them by speaking to the NPC at Vol'mar. This was not only meaningful choice, but when you outgrew the temp flight of the shredder from Gorgrond due to unlocking Draneor Pathfinder, you could go back to the squad summon to have extra burst when killing elites/rares.

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I have the easiest fix of all, remove covenants from end game content entirely, and only have them in world content/torghast. When entering instanced combat, none of your covenant soulbinds, abilities or conduits would work.

Do you know why this is good? Because classes are again, what they're supposed to be, classes, with no disgusting difference other than gear, talents and rng. This was the mold for FIVE of the MOST SUCCESSFUL expansions. So why did they change the gameplay loop which worked for 10 years? Who knows, they changed the wrong aspect of the game, and they're dying on the hill they made themselves.

People don't want 8768673467364 different useless choices, we want more meaningful abilities, ones that aren't denied to us just because we made a choice. (also ranks on abilities is one of the worst feelings ever, so conduits are a mistake already, not to mention, they're not alt friendly like blizzard stated all of SL would be.)

This would keep covenants as a still interesting casual end game content that offered cosmetics and maybe gear rewards, but wouldn't hinder m+, raid and pvp, casual and high end alike.

This also means you could pick whatever covenant you want and not feel bad about it.

I'd also like to mention that covenants are going to ruin raid diversity, as they're going to have to factor in like 8 million different things they didn't have to before. It's not just 36 specs and their abilities anymore, it's 36 specs, abilities, covenant, soulbinds, conduits, and leggos. This means that fights are going to end up being really homogenized for things that work for everything, which removes creativity on their end as well.

I really don't understand why they do this to themselves, they made 10x more work for themselves by adding all of this garbage, when we all would've been happy with the way end game worked up to mop, so long as we had fun new content with maybe some class reworks and ability changes. (Mop classes were god tier though, so only minor things needed to be changed.)

Edited by Vanquinn
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25 minutes ago, Starym said:

What I don't understand is the fact that Covenants ARE a meaningful choice before you add in any of the abilities. I mean it's arguably THE most meaningful choice, as you basically pick the one zone you'll most focus on, the soulbinds with special abilities, new quests, the renown thing, transmogs... I don't understand why they feel the need to add the abilities to the mix when there's already SO much that you're getting with your choice and it is actually meaningful already.

That said, the ability thing won't affect me personally, as I'll just choose whichever covenant I like best regardless, but I can still see why this is such a big issue for a lot of people.

Right, meaningful choice is you can't use these transmogs/mounts while a different covenant. Changing your order/mission research tiers was meaningful, not punitive. Riding into Thunder Totem on your hunter after retrieving Talonclaw even though Survival isn't popular currently, was nice.

The soulbinds though is treading into punitive (until we see the final call on resetting those), in the same manner that messing up your artifact empowerment was, or even the Titan research panel for visions not having a reset mechanism, have proven to be.

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6 minutes ago, Vanquinn said:

This would keep covenants as a still interesting casual end game content that offered cosmetics and maybe gear rewards, but wouldn't hinder m+, raid and pvp (just look at what corruption has done to pvp, I can't even imagine how bad it's going to be in SL)

It's done the same thing to M+ (versatility stacking) and Mythic raiding, hell they increased Skitra's health by 40% what, a week or two after Mastery 3 was available for purchase and Fire mages started nuking the everloving *filtered* out of everything? If I wanted to completely min/max my boomkin right now, I'd have to double my gear for versatility in high key M+, and critical strike for raiding.

Edited by SidonisAntares

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I know a lot of people want Shadowlands to drop this year but I think it would be wise on Blizzard's part to push it more for a 2021 release.  Don't get me wrong I would love to play this new expansion immediately but all this layer of systems on top of systems that is and will be associated to borrowed power gains is what will drive the player base apart from actually stay subbed to the game throughout the entire expansions duration.  This expansion with this encroaching problem with Covenants is not eligible for release imo.  Issues of balancing across the board and fairness with all forms of gaming (pvp to pve) is more important than rushing for a release date.  

I do like the concept of making it a toggle talent specialization however I believe Blizzard will dismiss this and find an alternative route of action.  Which in itself will lead to a stalemate of sorts with the player base along with undetermined eta on patch updates and hot fixes (if any) to 'iron' these accumulative problems through out the entirety of the expansion when it goes live.  

Also the reddit post from garzek is spot on about the difference of punitive choice and meaningful choice when it comes to players deciding on which Covenant to choose from.

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Absolutely logical, absolutely logical, I am not as experienced as these guys, but the talent tree solution is the first thing that comes to mind, you'd really have to be delusional to make a system being the opposite.

The biggest issue since for ever is that there is a tendency for dev's to tie performance to comsetic choices and lock you in specific performances forcing people to grind or leveling multiple characters, so in the end the most creative does not win, its the one who wasted his life the most.

Races being tied to strong pvp racials instead of an independent heritage or legacy system.

And now Covenant abilities. you'd be pissed off if you couldn't transmog your gear. and you'd look like anyone else.
these types of decisions completely Homogenizes  the game. 

clear example :

billions of pvp Orc monks with the same X covenant.

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That ideal of locking the covenant abilities is gonna be like the no account wide essence thing we spent well over a patch to get it turned a lot of people away from playing it stopped me from playing my alts which cut down on my playtime a lot this is a big mistake and they need to quit being stubborn 

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I like the idea of putting this on the talent tab, divorced from the Covenant someone favors for a character.  I think Covenants should mostly be about how it "fits" a character or person's tastes and characteristics.  Even those who don't RP may have a vague backstory or thoughts about their characters.  It should be about how the story, atmosphere or aesthetics melds well with the character, whether due to class, spec, race, past in-game experience or anything else like that.  And if people don't care, they can go with whatever cool mount or mog they can get first.  People can do all 4 on different toons without thinking "OMG!  I want to collect all 4, but 2 of my toons NEED to be Kyrian."

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Within the responding and dialoging playerbase, this is clearly a major bone of contention. There are real issues here...but...is the bulk of the playerbase going to 1) notice and/or 2) care? IDK. But what I do know, or can certainly imagine as someone who has been in QA for gaming software companies, is that the amount of effort and time that has been invested so far limits the amount and degree of adjustments that can be made. Someone mentioned the possibility of pushing release into 2021 and I was horrified. That would do more damage to the sustainment of the playerbase than releasing a contentious product. Those who see the obvious flaws are rightly irritated by what appears to be the sluggish or half-baked response of Blizz, but there are so many factors in play for the company to negotiate in such a plan. And you think the Covenant abilities adds complexity to decision making!!!! Not even close. WoW is a sandcastle compared to the <Stormwind/Orgrimmar> of Blizzard itself. After all, as I have always said, they are not a public utility (as much as they are for we players).

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6 minutes ago, Libraridan said:

Within the responding and dialoging playerbase, this is clearly a major bone of contention. There are real issues here...but...is the bulk of the playerbase going to 1) notice and/or 2) care? IDK. But what I do know, or can certainly imagine as someone who has been in QA for gaming software companies, is that the amount of effort and time that has been invested so far limits the amount and degree of adjustments that can be made. Someone mentioned the possibility of pushing release into 2021 and I was horrified. That would do more damage to the sustainment of the playerbase than releasing a contentious product. Those who see the obvious flaws are rightly irritated by what appears to be the sluggish or half-baked response of Blizz, but there are so many factors in play for the company to negotiate in such a plan. And you think the Covenant abilities adds complexity to decision making!!!! Not even close. WoW is a sandcastle compared to the <Stormwind/Orgrimmar> of Blizzard itself. After all, as I have always said, they are not a public utility (as much as they are for we players).

People will experience discrimination in M+ for this, both at the start of each season, and late in each season when trying to do higher keys, the two times that it matters most. I am frequently asked on live when I sign up for a M+ on my boomkin whether I'm balance or feral, and given that I've never been declined for being balance, must assume that Feral is sufficiently deficient by comparison that a lot of people won't take them for high keys.

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On 8/26/2020 at 5:08 AM, Libraridan said:

Within the responding and dialoging playerbase, this is clearly a major bone of contention. There are real issues here...but...is the bulk of the playerbase going to 1) notice and/or 2) care? IDK. But what I do know, or can certainly imagine as someone who has been in QA for gaming software companies, is that the amount of effort and time that has been invested so far limits the amount and degree of adjustments that can be made. Someone mentioned the possibility of pushing release into 2021 and I was horrified. That would do more damage to the sustainment of the playerbase than releasing a contentious product. Those who see the obvious flaws are rightly irritated by what appears to be the sluggish or half-baked response of Blizz, but there are so many factors in play for the company to negotiate in such a plan. And you think the Covenant abilities adds complexity to decision making!!!! Not even close. WoW is a sandcastle compared to the <Stormwind/Orgrimmar> of Blizzard itself. After all, as I have always said, they are not a public utility (as much as they are for we players).

The reason why I would advocate for a 2021 release is because I don't want another repeat of BFA when it was launched....a broken Azerite system that did NOT work as intended for the player to enjoy content.  That is what Beta and Alpha testing is for to test these supposedly new features and get the player feedback and discuss if said feature will be fair/adjustable for release.  I want a product that can be thoroughly tested inside and out with player fairness accounted for across the board.  

Blizzard IGNORED player feedback when BFA was undergoing beta testing for Azerite Gear and pushed it out in launched.  Then later admitted that the system is flawed and started to add other systems on top of a broken system.  This included another ring into Azerite gear, the Essence system, then later Corruption gear.  This made the game somewhat enjoyable but the time that lapsed into adding these fixes or 'solutions' took way too long on Blizzards end.  By then players either stopped trying to play, went to other games, or simply stopped subbing.  Blizzard already shot themselves in the foot and there are still players waiting for the final product before even thinking of resubbing to the game again.  This "we gotta push this unfinished product out now or it's gonna cost money if we don't do it sooner" mentality is what is going to hurt them further.

The Covenant system, as it stands, along with the perks offered (xmog/mount/etc) should not be associated to the new borrowed power that players will have to decide to keep for an 'x' amount of time.  Because Blizzard will start swinging that nerf hammer like they always do with the same excuse, 'this was not our intention for this class to be able to do this with this feature,' in every other hotfix, patch update, or routine maint. period while players are being locked into these Covenants.  Many players probably won't care and won't question Blizzard however the players that want to see Blizzard strive and come out on top are voicing their concern and hate seeing history repeat itself.

 

Edited by Ragingwolf

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