Cataclysm information is starting to trickle out

It must be getting closer to the Cataclysm beta because Blizzard has been releasing a lot of information about important changes that are upcoming, like last weeks announcement about stat changes and yesterdays announcement about how the new Mastery system will work. As I expect to see Cataclysm launch at some point in the October or November time frame, I’d expect to see more information about these changes and others not yet discussed in increasing frequency as we head into the Summer. Such revelations lead inevitably to thoughts of where Blizzard must be in there testing now. They must already be in their Alpha and must be gearing up to head into a closed beta soon, if they aren’t in it already. My guess is that the public beta, though still invite only, will begin in June or perhaps July but the dreaded NDA will keep information flow at a minimum. Which of course means we will be devouring any trickle of information that does come out.

Like this Mastery system announcement from yesterday. I have to admit I was intrigued by it when it was first announced at Blizzcon but the details that were released yesterday – specifically the level 3 Mastery abilities — still remain largely unknown. All we know is that they will be affected by gear we obtain in levels 81 – 85. A Mastery set bonus! Blizzard has been up-front that the idea of the Mastery system is to remove talents that directly buff abilities by adding specific amounts of damage or healing abilities. Those talents are being replaced by the level 1 and level 2 Mastery abilities and will be earned as passive bonuses by spending points in specific trees, and I imagine will require a level of points for each level, which should make it a bit more interesting for min/maxers to eek out those tidbits in upcoming talent builds.

We also already know that the talent trees will not be getting any deeper, but will be getting wider. Not only will Blizzard need to replace those talents being removed through the Mastery system, but if they are getting “wider” it necessarily means they will also be adding additional talents that are not already existing. For those of you looking at the talent trees now and salivating over where to put an additional 5 talent points now, you might want to put the brakes on and just sit back and wait for more relevant news. Because it’s clear Blizzard simply isn’t going to give you 5 additional points just to put where ever you wish. The talent trees are still going hobble you in the same sort of ways they always have. Regardless of what Blizzard says, there are still going to be talents that are “required” for your class and role, and there are still going to be a limited number of points available to you for “filler”. In short order the math geeks will figure out the “best” talent specs and most will adopt those. Same as happens today.

I remember well my thoughts on Jewelcrafting back in BC when I realized gear with slots were actually worse than previous gear that had no slots. The slots have value costs that have to be subtracted from the rest of the item budget. Blizzard’s stated intent was to enable people to buff the item stats in a way they chose but the end effect is that the vast majority of people use the same gems and buff in the same way. The real reason for the gem slots was to add in additional money sinks. No money is involved in the new talent system that I’m aware of but it acts in the same way. In order to keep talent inflation to a minimum we’ll have the new wider talent trees with the new Mastery system.

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