I won't copy/paste the entire Q&A session, as others have already done so and given good summaries of their thoughts for each item. If you would like to read the entire Q&A, it can be found here.
Instead I wanted to touch on only one point - regarding Tree of Life itself. First - a disclaimer: GC is speaking very vaguely on "improvements" that might be made "sometime" to the druid class. This is not a definite, it is probably something that was merely tossed around standing at the water cooler. Here's the question, and GC's answer:
Q: Can you describe for us what the intended identity and versatilities of the Tree of Life druids are supposed to be?
A: Druids overall have a strong niche. We are at a little bit of a crossroads with the Tree of Life however. We are currently wondering if druids sacrifice too much just to be as good as a healer as everyone else. What I mean is that if druids were good healers in caster form but great healers in Tree form, then there might be a decision there. However, we pretty much assume that healing druids are in Tree form nearly all of the time and balance around that. We don’t think it would be fair for them to be the best healers just for taking that talent.
In addition to having to give up utility in order to heal as a Tree of Life, we have become less enamored with druids locking themselves into one form. In fact, you really never see the basic tauren or night elf druid form (you know, the one that actually shows off the awesome armor art) because all druids are in cat, bear, tree, or moonkin form nearly 100% of the time. I’m not saying we would just cut Tree of Life from the game. It’s been around awhile and for better or worse, it’s part of World of Warcraft now. However, we could see taking the druid in a direction where shifting was much more common and easy to do. Maybe you only go into tree form for certain spells but leave for other spells -- this didn’t work previously because of the high cost of shifting, but in the absence of power shifting, we’d love to get rid of the costs completely. Another way to go would be to make Tree of Life form a cooldown, more like Metamorphosis. You shift into tree when you need a healing boost, but you don’t stay in it all the time. Now, I am totally waving my arms here. This is not the kind of change you are going to see in the next patch. But it is something we’re thinking about long term, and the kind of thinking we’d love to have more feedback on from the community.
Note to other healers: this is why you are unlikely to see any kind of “Holy form” ever. Giving up healing to do damage works okay. Giving up everything to heal is lame.
I almost don't know where to start, because I have so many point swimming around in my head that I want to get down on paper - not uncommon for me!
I think the blatantly obvious thing to state is that forms are our "thing". We give up certain parts of our abilities in order to improve other aspects of our abilities. We transform into bears, giving up our ability to heal ourselves or cast offensive spells, but becoming solid tanks. We transform into cats, also giving up the ability to heal, in order to be nasty melee dps. We transform into trees, giving up our ability to do damage, in order to excel at healing.
If the cats, bears, and moonkins are content to do their thing and not think it's unfair that they can't heal AND DPS at the same time, why is it such an issue for trees?
Here's Lissanna's take, which I think mirrors my own thoughts:
We lock ourselves into forms and don’t come out because that’s what druid playstyle IS at this point. It’s possible that tree form could work differently than our other forms, but doing that would probably be lame, because the druid class expects to spend all of our time in a form. In PvE, there can be more shifting around to use Utility spells (hurricane & roots, etc) that aren’t useable in tree or feral forms. The problem of sacrificing everything else to be able to fill our roles well is just that… we have to sacrifice everything else, and in the end, that’s fine. Making tree form a shapeshift on a cooldown is actually a lame idea, since none of our other forms would have that, and it would go against what it is to be a druid.
Bears choose bear-centric talents and gear and roles because they want to tank.
Cats choose kitty specs, gear, and they rip things apart because they want to DPS.
Moonkins choose to zap and pow with spells.
I spec ToL because I like to heal. I don't care about DPSing.
There may be times as a bear, cat or moonkin that you need to pop out and heal, rez, innervate, CC, depoison, etc. But it's rare enough that we don't see people jumping up and down and demanding that bears should be able to cast Regrowth and cats should be able to shred their target to pieces while tossing out Rejuvs on the party.
The problem with Trees
Since its inception, the Tree of Life form has undergone a lot of changes, mostly to remove or improve restrictions placed on us that were seen as disadvantages. It was rough at the start - but we've had a lot of minor improvements to relieve some of the problems. Compared to Day 1, trees can now:
- move at normal speed instead of 20% slower than other classes
- cast all restoration spells, not just HoTs, NS and Swiftmend
- cast Remove Curse and Remove/Abolish Poison
- cast Nature's Grasp
- cast Mark/Gift of the Wild and Thorns
The remaining restrictions or complaints against ToL:
- ugly appearance (to be changed sometime in the future)
- form hides the character/equipment (not unique to this form)
- can't CC
- can't cast offensive spells
Since their release, I don't think anyone can argue that we haven't had some good improvements. We're no longer locked into certain heals and not others. We have access to our utility spells to cleanse. We can run around with everyone instead of having to shift out and run at normal speed.
But STILL some druids complain that we should be able to heal and DPS in Tree form.
Trees are not a sometimes food
I will concede that trees are.. a little ugly. But a spruce-up (hehe, spruce.. get it :D) is on the horizon - and I'm confident it will be impressive.
Sure, we can't see our pretty elf or tauren characters. But that is true of every druid form. Are they also hoping to make cats, bears and laz0r budgies shift in and out frequently? Surely not..
I don't want my ToL to be turned into a 3 minute healing trinket that I put into a rotation. Or worse - a proc that is out of my control. I don't want it turned into a trinket in exchange for the ability to moonfire and cyclone. I can already do those things - I just have to temporarily give up my boosted healing. And I'm fine with that.
Geez, it's not like shifting out makes us AWFUL healers. If a cat shifts out, his healing is going to be woeful (but better than nothing). But as a resto druid, I can pop out and do respectable DPS and continue to do respectable (if not excellent) healing - I've just lost those boosts to my spells. They're not crippled, just reduced. Shifting does not suddenly make me a terrible healer.
I honestly do not see it as a huge sacrifice to have to lose some healing in order to DPS or CC.
However, I do understand that some resto druids don't like being a tree all the time, and would like to spend some time in caster. Certainly I would like to see myself every now and then. Others like the idea of a super-resto form that you bust out when things are really dire - along comes the awesome tree to save the day. I can definitely understand the appeal of that one! Pew pew, heal laz0rz.
For me, I guess what it boils down to is that we've had Tree for years now - and suddenly they want to take it back and make it something you can only use occasionally, as a super perk. I don't want to give up the form I have loved for several years because some people feel that we should be able to DPS and heal.
Counter argument: Tree form benefits aren't much
So just when I thought I had a handle on exactly how I felt about the issue, Siobhann from Silver Hand comes along and complicates things for me by bringing up a really good point, grr. so I'm cranky at you, Siobhann! *angrytree*
The difference between moonkin/ToL and other forms is that all we do when we shift into them is lock out half our casting abilities. Feral forms are an entirely different playstyle with energy or rage and you GAIN a completely different set of abilities by shifting.
Why should I be forced into a form that only has access to healing spells to heal the same as other classes who have all their base abilities?
I shift into cat form, I get an entirely new ability bar and energy rather than mana. Shift into bear, I get a different set of abilities and now I'm a warrior playing with a rage bar. I shift into tree from caster, all I do is lose abilities. I gain nothing but the spirit->spellpower conversion and aura that I should have access to all the time with 41+ points in a healing tree.
Gotta say it, this is a great point. What do we actually gain in tree form? Buffs, and that's about it. Immunity to poly (which has limited use for me, as a PvEr). Modifications to what we already have - nothing new or special. And to add insult to injury, I not only don't get anything new or different, I lose abilities also.
I have to say that I never really thought of it that way. I consider/ed our tree form buffs/auras/improvements to be defining, and more than adequate. But maybe tree form is - as other people have said - just a bunch of modifiers wrapped in a broccoli graphic? (I believe I'm paraphrasing Nadine from Magtheridon - sorry, I closed the window)
Should they perhaps be considering giving us different abilities or a different power system as a tree? Some kind of energy-type power like "life force" or something? And some funky new spells (and take months to balance them..) Not necessarily more spells to have to choose between, but something different. A slightly different style of play if you choose to become a tree.
Rather than focusing on the fact that we give up our offense and defense - should we address the fact that we don't really gain anything great when we shift into tree?
Suddenly I'm not so sure of myself.
A common sentiment on the forums at the moment is "if it isn't broken, don't fix it". The majority appear to be vehemently opposed to turning ToL into a trinket (as am I).
But I have to admit that now I am questioning what really is so great about this form that I love.
I still don't care about being able to DPS in tree form. I doubt I'll ever care. But now that I sit and think about it - even though we are definitely formidable healers in our current state - ToL basically just boosts our existing spells and spellpower and doesn't give us anything new or change our play much (if at all). On top of that, it removes our offensive and CC spells (although we can still cast them, but then we lose healing performance).
Even though I honestly don't care to DPS, now I find that I can't help feeling as though we've been a little short changed.
I'm happy the way we are at the moment, though. I will be very unhappy if ToL becomes a proc or is put on a cooldown.
As always - time will tell.