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WoWSep 9, 2020 3:10 pm CT

Blizzard has no plans to “pull the ripcord” on Covenant abilities

In a new development update blog released today, titled “The Road to Shadowlands,” World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas has shared a roadmap containing several informative tidbits about the upcoming expansion, Shadowlands. Chief among them is the clear statement that they will not be doing what the community has been referring to as “pulling the ripcord.”

What is “Pull the Ripcord”?

If you are out of the loop, here’s what this is all about: the community has been expressing their concerns throughout the entire alpha and beta cycles for Shadowlands that the Covenant system might have its share of problems once the expansion is live. The powers of each Covenant will likely not be perfectly balanced with one another for every class or spec in the game, leading to players feeling forced to play a Covenant they’re not fond of for mechanical reasons.

In fear of seeing a repeat of what happened during Battle for Azeroth with systems like Azerite Armor, several vocal members of the community have been urging the developers to make changes to that system. One of the main suggestions is simply for Blizzard to decouple player power from Covenant choice, thus turning the choice into one purely based on fantasy, aesthetics, rewards, or story, but with no serious mechanical implications that might translate into diminished player power for making a “wrong choice.”

The movement has gained traction in recent weeks — especially as the release date for Shadowlands was announced — yet nothing was said in the meantime to appease the fears of the community with the Covenant power situation. Today, after some time of silence, this is what Blizzard had to say about it:

Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment (Official Post)
In short, pulling on that thread (or cord, as it were) would unravel the entire fabric of the system. Even so, we would embrace the work required to rebuild the covenant system along those lines if we agreed that it would be an improvement, but we ultimately do not share that view.

goblin glider

There is no ripcord to pull; but there is a promise of ongoing balancing efforts

Their argument seems to boil down to an aspect of this system that the community seems to have downplayed — the powers and abilities given by a Covenant do not live in a vacuum; they are inherently tied to other aspects of that Covenant, such as specific Soulbinds and Conduits. If they allowed your Night Fae character to simply select a Venthyr ability, that ability might simply not work properly due to the fact that you would be missing other features from the Venthyr Covenant — such as certain specific Soulbinds that that Covenant offers which enhance the ability you are choosing. In other words: the entire system would be compromised, and need to be revamped. And if we’re being realistic, it would involve monumental amounts of work, and time, that Blizzard simply does not have.

It’s hard to imagine that, sound as they are, these arguments will do much to appease certain members of the community. The next chapters in this story are likely to be of contention. But Blizzard has also expressed that they share the same concerns as the community does, and compromised themselves with keeping an eye on those different powers, and retuning them as necessary:

Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment (Official Post)
If you really want to go Kyrian on your rogue, but can’t justify it because every guide currently says that the Necrolords’ Serrated Bone Spike is too good to pass up, or if an otherwise appealing covenant has benefits that seem irrelevant in PvP, those are exactly the sorts of imbalance we want to fix, and your feedback is essential to that process. In the coming weeks, we’ll be doing numerical tuning, making changes to underlying ability designs when needed, and potentially leveraging covenant-specific conduits if a covenant needs some targeted shoring up to ensure that they’re viable in a particular type of content. As our combat team shifts its focus primarily to tuning, we’ll be rolling those changes out to Beta servers ASAP for further testing and iteration.

These are some highlights, but the full section on Covenants is worth a read if you want to get a clearer picture of how the development team is aiming to tackle any potential issues with the system.  It’s certainly reassuring to see communication happen, and that Ion evidently understands exactly what the community concerns are.

For now, we’re just hoping two things come of this. First, that the community continues to provide constructive feedback and does not overreact too negatively, in a way to “sabotage” Blizzard’s efforts to try to make this work because they didn’t immediately “bend” to what the community wanted to see. Secondly — and most of all — that the team’s balancing efforts with Covenants are constant and accurate, so that players don’t end up facing the grievous problems that many are anxious about possibly facing.

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