Maybe it's just me, me and my trusty MMO snob hat, but I feel like Blizzard is taking WoW in the wrong direction.
Don't get me wrong, all the information that's been pouring out about the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion today has me more excited than ever to play it, and I already foresee many sleepless nights mindlessly killing monsters, and playing courier for the unsleeping masses of NPCs. Unfortunately though, the overall design of the game seems to be heading in a direction that makes me uneasy.
What I am referring to exactly, is the amount of self sufficiency they are giving to each class. Self sufficiency is generally a good thing in real life, but that is only the case because there is a limit to how much you can do on your own. No matter how self sufficient you are, you inevitably need to rely on other people to get through your life. Unless you're a crazy shoe bomber and/or cat lady, you generally need assistance or guidance from other people, or even just need to socialize sometimes.
In WoW however, you can go from "birth" through to the "end" without ever speaking to a single person if you so desire. That's fine, that's what made WoW what it is. I justified this to myself by thinking "well at least these newbs wont be able to get the five man loot" unfortunately five mans were dumbed down so much that this just isn't really the case anymore, a trend that has continued through all but the newest, most challenging content.
Heading back somewhere in the direction of making my point, the new talents and spell changes in WoTLK seem aimed at making each class completely self-reliant. Blizzard is making some very interesting abilities, things that really will make the game more fun and interactive to play, in this sense I think the expansion is going to be a marked improvement over what we have now.
What I don't understand though, is why not make them span between classes? Why not allow Rogues to stack some sort of ability that "increases the threat of a Warrior's XYZ" or "Causes the next Magical attack to deal 25% bonus damage". These are just off the top of my head, so probably don't make much sense, what I am getting at is that I would like to see more interaction between classes. Sure there are things that decrease armor, there's Innervates and resistance debuffs etc. but there are no specific "combo" attacks for lack of a better word.
It's gotten to the point where you pretty much just play your class as well as you can, and hope everyone else does the same. If everyone plays their class properly, you win. In the 25 man raids this changes, slightly. Warlocks have to co-ordinate their curses, Paladins need to co-ordinate their judgments etc. This is the type of interaction that bolsters socialization and which ultimately makes MMOs a different experience than most other games.
Back in the EverQuest days you couldn't even bind yourself somewhere (the rough equivalent of talking to an innkeeper and setting your hearth in WoW) without finding someone to group with you, come meet you, and cast the binding spell on you. This was annoying to say the least, but without the small, forced interactions like this the whole world seems much colder.
So what could Blizzard have done to warm my heart? Make inter-class abilities that enable you to drastically increase your effectiveness based not only on your own play, but directly by the play of those around you. There should be strong attacks chained between classes, effectively creating mini games within each pull, or each encounter. They would be able to create encounters tuned so that you had to use such abilities so that they could get away from the current trend of raids which seem to be going the same way they did in EverQuest. Make bosses hit hard, throw around a lot of AE damage, and heavily penalize for you not wacking the mole fast enough.
An example of something like this would be a mob which has a phase that requires high DPS, and a phase that requires high healing. Instead of where it is now where the healers just slack off a little in the DPS phase to conserve mana, and the DPS just stops potting and focuses on avoiding damage in the healing phases, they could make it so that a proper sequence of events could trigger certain effects - for example - a Rogue ability that causes the Rogue to do bonus damage if he is hit with four critical heals within 3 seconds. This would require quite a bit of coordination, and maybe a bit of luck on the part of the healers, even though the focus of the phase is on the DPS. The healers would still be a large part of the fight, and have something interesting to do that required communication that wasn’t the standard “make green bars go up”.
This is just one example, and it was just off the top of my head but it serves its purpose which is to provide an example of how Blizzard could have made the game more of a team effort. Small interactions like this one small example are a way that you can put more emphasis on the players behind the characters; and put more control into the player’s hands, instead of just making the game about using the optimal DPS rotation, and not standing in any particle effects.
Long story short, I would really like to see Blizzard take WoW back in the direction of being a "team" game. It's starting to feel more and more like a single player experience with a chat room overlapped on top of it, and while it's still, obviously, much more social than a single player game, it is one area in which I feel WoW could really use some improvement. Not just for the MMO snob in me, but for the logical gamer as well.