What if Ghost Wolf reduced damage taken, Shamanistic Rage regenerated health for every incoming stun, and crucial DPS talents were slimmed down to two or three ranks? Burrock, the rare alt who apparently doesn’t exist to troll, proposes those changes and many more with a detailed post on how he’d redesign the talent tree.
He’s effectively raising the hit cap and lowering weapon damage with his tweaks to the percentages, but there’s no math on whether the consolidation of existing talents — plus the addition of new talents — would equal or surpass the DPS lost by the reduced percentages.
The highlight of his redesigned tree is a 51-point talent that allows a single Spirit Wolf to act as a permanent pet, with the overall cooldown on Feral Spirit reduced by 120 seconds. I’m not sure one Spirit Wolf would be much different, code-wise, in the grand scheme of things. I was under the impression that graphically we’re looking at two wolves, and the difference between having one wolf and two wolves up is negligible. I know in beta and 3.0 there was a “master wolf” who had to stay alive if you wanted to use the Feral Spirit abilities, but I haven’t lost the pet bar due to the death of one wolf so far in WotLK. If the wolves die, it’s usually because of AoE damage, and in those cases both of ’em drop together.
If our 51-point talent grants a permanent Spirit Wolf pet, and Feral Spirit is on a 60-second cooldown, you’d also have to consider the fact that we’re essentially getting an instant Revive Pet in some situations. I’d imagine the Hunter QQ would be enormous, and we know the developers have qualms about giving us “iconic abilities” unique to other classes.
Let’s not forget that the devs consider the other two specs when they overhaul talents. To make this work they’d have to be very careful not to allow Elemental or Resto to get certain talents, and players always find creative ways to exploit things before Blizzard clamps down and the cookie-cutter specs emerge. Before WotLK dropped, clever players were already figuring out how to make beastly Elemental/Enhancement hybrids by exploiting unrefined talents and the merging of melee/spell hit and crit.
When you look at it from that angle, the single biggest developer rationale for the bloat in our tree is the prevention of Elemental and Resto from getting our crucial talents. Ghostcrawler might not show up on the official forums and say as much, but it’s the only thing that makes sense when streamlining talent tree bloat seems otherwise so simple.
Edit: Just to make sure I’m clear about where I stand here, I very much agree that bloat is a problem and a lot of things could be streamlined. The linked post has some awesome ideas for that, but when I read it I was playing devil’s advocate in my head and tried to think about things from the developer perspective. The biggest challenge on the development side is chopping away at the bloat without accidentally giving the other two specs incentive to form freak builds that break the game’s design.