I personally really like the look and feel of the Soulbind system being these sub-specialty talent trees that are able to swapped on the fly and allow you to have some tuning knobs for your character depending on the type of content with which you're engaging. The idea that they're not all combat related and give boosts to covenant content or world content is really cool, for sure.
My major problem lies with the conduits.
, this was Ion's explanation as to why Conduits are treated like gems, in that they're destroyed when it's replaced with a different conduit.
At around 0:55 in the linked video, Bellular asks, "So, I think a big community question right now is… Conduits from what we understand, they operate like gems, so if you put a conduit in, and then put another one in, the original one is destroyed." He then asks why the team went this direction vs a library system or a swappable item from your bags.
Ion's response is that conduits are going to be earned from dungeons, raid bosses, PvP, and vendors (in some cases) and the current plan is to have them drop as a bonus drop (not competing with other loot slots) and the reason they're destructible is because:
They don't want you to have to do inventory management to make yourself optimal in every scenario, and
They want your Soulbind setup to be a more "permanent" choice
So, essentially, they want conduits to be a somewhat permanent choice that offer deeper customization for your character, but that's offset with a higher degree of difficulty to change. And while that sounds all well-and-good on paper, we've seen this type of thing before with the original iteration of Azerite gear and all the issues that came along with that (ludicrously massive respec costs or carrying around 3 of the same exact item to swap between differently-specced pieces of Azerite armor on an encounter-by-encounter basis).
What Ion doesn't seem to understand is that their design intention is completely disconnected from the behavior they're actually encouraging.
Players, and in particular people pushing high-end content (high M+ keys and Mythic raiding) are going to look for every edge and advantage the game has to offer, and those edges are important at lower levels of skill as well, since a player that's, say, a 65th percentile player needs just as much of an edge to clear out the last boss of the Heroic raid as a 98th percentile player needs to clear out the last boss of a Mythic raid. So this impacts players at every single level. Not being optimal means less margin for error and higher stress on the other members of your group to make up for your deficiency relative to the content.
So, what behavior is this actually going to drive? The exact behavior Ion said he didn't want to encourage: massive numbers of conduits in peoples' bags and not-fun inventory management swapping between conduit setups within your Soulbinds. See, instead of just accepting being sub-optimal, people are going to spend hours and hours grinding out dungeons, running lower-tier raids, grinding for whatever the currency-of-the-month is, and doing PvP content to ensure that they have enough of these consumables ready to go for their raid. Every single raid encounter will have an optimal Soulbind setup, including Conduits, for each class and spec. Swapping the conduits in destroys the old one. So if the raid has boss progression set up in such a way that the first boss is a boss where there's a soak mechanic, the second boss is a single target DPS race, and the third boss is a multi-target fight where cleave is desirable, you're potentially talking about walking into the raid with one conduit setup, going to the second boss, destroying that setup by replacing conduits to a setup that's optimal for the second boss, and then doing that again for the third boss. Now, if the fourth boss is another soak mechanic, and you wish to return to your first setup, guess what? You now have to have duplicates of the same conduits that you already had socketed at the start of the raid. Let's say you're replacing all 3 conduit slots on every fight… by the 4th fight, you've now destroyed 9 conduits and are in the exact same setup as your starting setup. Does that sound like fun to anyone?
This system is honestly the worst of both worlds when it comes to game design. It starts out from this really silly idea that there isn't one best way to play each class/spec (there is) and that players are super invested in making difficult-to-change choices from an expansion-specific borrowed power system (they're not) while not even addressing the quality-of-life issues (inventory management) that the system is intended to address.
This really just highlights how short-sighted the game designers are when it comes to thinking about their intention and comparing that to the behaviors they're encouraging. It's insane to me that Blizzard keeps saying "we don't want to get in the way of fun", while constantly putting up hurdles to the most fundamental endgame group activities, and this Conduit grind (which will need to be completed on a weekly basis) is just the next thing in a long series of wrong-headed ideas that I honestly cannot believe anyone thought would be fun.
I really hope they change this, as this system in and of itself has me re-thinking whether I'll come back to WoW for Shadowlands, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Source: Original link
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