24 May 2010

Mixing Mage Mechanics

One of the frequent accusations a Mage suffers from in Warcraft is about our buttons. Apparently we have two of them and we spam them repeatedly. We ignore everything else on the screen – for all we care we could just have a couple of small icons at the bottom, with large yellow numbers appearing when we press them.

As mages we all know there’s more to our class than the robe and the pointy hat. If there wasn’t we’d be little different to Warlocks, except maybe with a better education and less irrational fear of sunlight. But how often have we peeled back the robe and looked at how our class works? When it gets down to fundamentals, do we really have the best game in the world?

The Gatling Gun Mage

If you think of a Warcraft Mage, you’re thinking of this guy. He spends his time casting spells as frequently and as potently as possible. The player can frequently be found mashing buttons, frothing at the mouth and cackling wildly. It’s one of those very pure and raw mechanics that instantly provides you with feedback on how you’re doing. Push Button, Receive Bacon.

It also means that being a mage is directly linked to your performance. If you’re the top of the damage meters you’re good. If you’re somewhere in the middle you need to push your buttons harder. If you’re at the bottom you’re a Warlock. It doesn’t matter what spec you play or what gear you have. If you’re pro it will show.

The Spellweaver

For some mages, a thirst emerged for something more cerebral and involved than just mashing buttons. A further concept emerged, where a mage would start by casting one spell, but would then elaborate on it further by drawing on additional components to make something truly special. Age of Conan was a game that demonstrated this, although it began to become more of a caster version of Dance Dance Revolution than anything else.

There is still this unmet dream of a mage pulling off some incredible spell, the skies going dark and the boss being hit with a column of fire as a devastating finishing move is unleashed. It feels counter-intuitive that the most devastating mage a spell has in his arsenal is the same one he’s been using for the last seventy four levels but just hits harder.

The Master of Buffs

For the real back-seat mage, the concept of dishing out short duration buffs and debuffs is a possibility. Working in a similar way to a healbot, your sole purpose would be to apply damage buffs to your party members and vulnerability debuffs to their target. Your job is then managing and juggling all those buffs to make sure the rest of the group still does shedloads of damage.

The problem with this model is that you become a passive and boring symbiote that cannot exist without a group to support you. You give them buffs, they give you loot.

Besides, there are no big yellow numbers. Well, none that you’ll see anyway. And life’s all about big yellow numbers.

The Ritualist

You remember those Warlocks? They have a collection of spells that require others to help them – the common ones being Summoning party members and Soulwells. To be fair though they also have a couple of other tricks up their sleeve – have you ever played Doomguard Roulette for example?

The basic mechanic is that a cluster of mages group together to cast spells in the midst of battle, pooling their power to launch a powerful attack at the enemy. Trouble is it means you’d need to take more than one mage with you into battle. It would also mean that as your mages died (from standing in the bad stuff of course), the amount of power in the pot would drop.

So if you were to build your own mage from scratch which bits would you pick? What would you choose from the jumbled box of parts in order to make the ultimate wielder of spells? What would you avoid completely – what would be the last chocolate left in the box? As always, leave your ideas in the comments.

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5 Responses to Mixing Mage Mechanics

  1. Len says:

    I played a mage as my first D&D character before I’d ever heard of WoW, and just loved the versatility. I ended up taking her into a warrior-mage direction where her spells augmented her physical abilities or filled in for her weaknesses. For example she wore very little armour so her spells boosted her defenses and dexterity so that she could leap and tumble around enemies without being hit. I loved that style of spellcasting play, where you weren’t just the ‘big ball of fire’ on the field and used spells in interesting ways.

    Something I was always interested in was the mage as the master of control – standing at the back of the field in a squishy robe and casting spells to slow, hamper, counter or take enemies out of action altogether while supporting and buffing your party. I suppose in something like WoW this style of play doesn’t work so much as it’s not very quantifiable…. you can’t really see numbers for how many fewer spells an enemy casts due to mages counterspelling, or the drop in damage to your party for all those slowed/frozen/polymorphed adds. Still, it’s a role I think I would love!

    • Gazimoff says:

      I like this idea – a person that controls the fight through their crowd control, counterspelling and buffing. It would almost be like a healer to play – very reactionary.

      The only thing that makes me nervious is that it would be a class dedicated to group play – it would need something to fall back on in order to be viable as a solo class as well.

      Otherwise love the idea!

      • Len says:

        I guess that’s why it’s something that appealed to me greatly in D&D where I’m never without my trust party 🙂 In WoW I’ve tried all three specs, was frost for a good long while as I liked the feeling of additional control it brought… Hmm I’m beginning to think I have some ‘control freak’ issues 😀

        I’ve always tried to play my mage in as party conscious way as possible in WoW – being aware of adds, using slow/frostbolt/frost nova to control where necessary, counterspelling and polymorphing effectively. Unfortunately the focus most of the time is on how much damage you do rather than any of these abilities!

  2. Rivs says:

    Well in Warcraft there are lot more fights that mages can’t just sit there and rattle off spells, you have to be position wary, like rotface, or festergut. You have to get timing down, especially on your cool downs, and your mana management down.

    The only fight I can really let loose is Patchwerk, and really if he ain’t the weekly I don’t see him anymore. ;(
    .-= Rivs´s last blog ..These people have huge balls. =-.

  3. Jaedia says:

    Hmm.. See, I like to manage cooldowns a lot. It’s why I enjoy Shadow Priest (that and the amount of stuff she already had, woot!), and it’s why I enjoy Destro Lock. I like the opening, and the weaving of spells. I love the Immolate -> Chaos Bolt splosion -> Conflagrate boom -> Incinerate until that all needs refreshing/is off cooldown. Shadow Priest is keeping DoTs up with the max damage for each one, and then keeping Mind Blast on cooldown.

    Similarly, in Aion, I played a.. what was it called.. Spiritmaster. I didn’t choose it because of the pet, in fact, funnily enough, and you wouldn’t expect it, but I find pet classes to be a bit of a nuisance, but the spell priorities were fun. I loved juggling the spells about and the playstyle was very similar to Destro Lock I seem to remember with an ability fairly similar to Conflagrate.

    If Mage was anything like any of the above, then I guess that would be my perfect class ^^
    .-= Jaedia´s last blog ..Banning Ninja Looters =-.