WoW Class Discussion Panel
It began with almost a literal bang - the impressive sound system in the main Blizzard hall suddenly blasting "Call to Arms" from the first game's soundtrack. The panelists were Tom Chilton, the lead game designer, and Greg Street, the Lead Game Systems designer - better known as the enigmatic Ghostcrawler on the Wrath of the Lich King Beta Forums (sadly dispelling rumors that Ghostcrawler was actually an attractive woman.)
To begin with, he asked three questions, all of which received roars of varying volume - "Who thinks their class is overpowered?" "Who thinks there are overpowered classes?" "Who thinks their class is the worst in the game?"
In response, he admitted, "You just learned more about class design than from anything I could say here."
He started talking about the new class, the Death Knight.
They wanted another tank class for 5-man groups, but didn't want to end up with the Paladin/Warrior "Tank/DPS/PvP" Talent Trees. For the Death Knight to tank, they needed a way to generate threat, so they came up with Presences that did different things.
Death Knights start at a higher level than other classes, and have an awesome questing zone - quests we've never seen before. Even if you don't intend to level one to 80, said Street, do the beginning - some of the best hours in WoW, bar none.
Blizzard wanted the Death Knight to play differently, to not use mana, energy or rage. Runes are ultimately an infinite source of energy, but you have three different cooldowns to keep track of. Tried to tie it in to the Rune Weapon, which has been part of DK lore in Warcraft for forever.
Tried many UI iterations for Runes and Runic Power before they finally settled.
Original idea was that you would be able to completely customize your runes - put in six Frost runes for instance. But basically it sucked. Let you ignore too many of the cool abilities that the DKs had. Thought it would be cool to let the DKs try all the abilities.
To provide some of that customization, Death Knights have talents that allow them to convert Runes into multi-purpose Death Runes.
Runic Power was implemented to make DK combat less like a Metronome. Wanted to make a big deal out of Diseases. Originally was way more complicated than it was. Now they're like Combo Points - you want to put Diseases on a target and then use a finishing move.
Death Knights have a bit of a learning curve, but not so complicated that casual gamers will be thrown off. All three trees can all fill any different role - players can tank as a Blood/Frost/Unholy DK instead of being limited to one spec.
With all classes, they're trying to do that, trying to make talents about more "this your playstyle," and less "this is your PvP tree, this is your PvE tree."
Overhauled Pet system, which was clunky for a class that "tends to attract lots of new players." (Lots of laughs at that)
Streamlined the whole 'ability learning' thing, Hunters no longer need to tame a temporary pet to learn an upgrade. In raiding, there was a very complicated Shot rotation, they tried to clean it up and make it more about player choice instead of exact timing.
Common complaint for Hunters is that they get chewed up by melee. The new version of Disengage is what they're trying to do to let Hunters get out of melee. Finally, the new Freezing Shot. In 5-man runs, Hunter Crowd Control is very complicated... "Let's just let the Mage sheep instead." Freezing Shot is a way to deploy a trap quickly.