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Paul Kubit on Covenant Swapping - Changing Should be Easy, Changing Back Should be Hard
09/7/2020 em 15:44
interview with Exorsus team member Alveona
, Senior Game Designer Paul Kubit spoke briefly about the design intent behind Covenant swapping, specifically citing that switching Covenants should be easy, but switching back to that Covenant at a later point should be more restricted. He further elaborated that they are still deciding exactly what restriction might be used, but the idea was some period of time or other hurdle in order to disincentivize players swapping Covenants between raid encounters or content type. The entire interview can be found on
Alveona's twitch channel
, though please keep in mind that it is in a mix of English and Russian.
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To switch a Covenant, if you feel like you've made a mistake, you joined the Kyrian's but you're really a Venthyr, you should be able to do that with little to no penalty at all. The penalty comes when you switch back, when you decide, actually no I want to go back to the Kyrains. At that point, fantasy wise, you've betrayed their trust; how can we trust you're not a double agent of the Venthyr if you've left and rejoined, so that's where it will take some effort to get back.
The specific penalty hasn't been determined, but I would imagine there is some period of time, say on the order of week and a half/two weeks,
don't hold me on that
, but something like that where you have to re-earn the trust that you lost with them. Not impossible, something that you could do, very possible between raid seasons, but something which should be very difficult to do so you won't be incentivized to pick a different covenant for raid one week and Mythic+ the next, or one raid boss and then switch back over for another raid boss.
He went on to elaborate on the reasoning behind restricting Covenants, the number of systems which tie into evaluating their performance beyond the ability choice, and how differing choices can allow individual players to specialize in different forms of content or encounter mechanics from one another.
In this upcoming beta, there's going to be a lot more game play affecting systems which are tied to covenants which come to light. enough that hopefully the choice of a covenant becomes less like choosing an ability in a talent row, which is kind of how it feels now, and instead choosing between two classes - you're not just choosing an ability, but a pair of abilities along with a suite of additional passives and powers which come from Soulbinds you're able to tie to, benefits from your Covenant sanctum, and more. This should be something where still there are going to be cases where a particular Covenant choice might do better on a particular fight or situation in PvP, but we'd like to avoid a situation where "if you'd like to do Mythic+, this is the best Covenant for you, and it's going to be better in all cases in Mythic+, same for raiding, or PvP, and other primary ways of playing the game". There will for sure be cases where you'll say "alright, in this fight which involves single target damage and a lot of movement, yes the Venythr power is best", but in a more spread fight or in a single target fight even where it doesn't involve a lot of movement then maybe you'll do better in this fight, and that gives different players an opportunities to shine based on their covenant choices.
My take on this is that I think it's ok if people who want to play optimally choose their covenant because it's optimal. There are lots of reasons to choose a covenant: for RP reasons, cosmetic reasons, and the power of your character in a particular type of content is one of them.
The analysis here would appear to be that initially switching covenants, whether for RP reasons, performance ones, or otherwise, should be hassle free, but swapping back to them after the fact should be restricted in order to reduce gaming the system. While undoubtedly some performance focused players will be outraged by the idea of not being able to fully optimize at all times, there's a certain allure to the idea of specializing and individualization which hasn't existed within WoW in many years - the modern age of WoW has been one of hotswapping talents, legendaries, and other bonuses to excel at any and every type of content at a whim, but that loses some the appeal of choosing to specialize in a specific strength that someone else might not match. The result has been that virtually every Warrior is a carbon copy of one another, using virtually the same talents/legendaries/trinkets/azerite/corruptions as every other with no deviation. Certainly there's a point at which restriction is cumbersome - you don't a classes only AoE tool to be locked behind such a restriction, but the ability to be 1-5% better at AoE isn't as large a difference as it might at first appear.
Also important to note is the impact of all the other systems in Shadowlands beyond Covenant ability choice. With each Covenant having access to three Soulbinds, each with anywhere between 4 and 6 pathing options, on top of Conduits (some of which may be Covenant specific), legendaries, and whatever else might be in store, there's a great deal more obfuscation behind the performance question than "the Kyrian ability is better in AoE than the Venthyr one". It may be entirely possible to setup one Soulbind for Single Target, another for Mythic+, and the third for open world content if you so choose to.
The real questions here is whether it's strictly a bad thing to give players the ability to decide to specialize in something without the freedom to take back that decision at any time. It's a bit rhetorical because there is no true answer to that question, but if the gain is small enough to not be the single most overriding decision detrmining the difference between success and failure, then the practical impact is relatively low. Ultimately there's no such thing as perfect balance, so there will undoubtedly be a community agreed upon "best", but just in the same way that racial bonuses have largely been tuned down to a sub-1% difference, if the gap is closed (or confused) enough that it's not a large and easily measured difference, it's unlikely to become the defining characteristic of performance. In other words, a competitively high parsing player is almost certainly going to remain a competitively high parsing regardless if they choose Kyrian or Venthyr.
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