Warcraft: In Reply To Dungeons and the New DPS Race

01042011

There is a bit of a semantics problem with using the term “dps” in the context of WoW. Literally, it stands for “damage per second.” It has long been a measurement of effectiveness among the classes and specs which focus on dealing damage to the enemy (rather than healing damage taken or taking the damage the enemy deals)…the higher the amount of damage per second you can do, the better you are at the game (at least among those who place value in such things).

You can use the term dps to refer to a few things in the game. For instance, “I did 9k dps” means “I did 9 thousand damage per second.” However, if you say “a dps character/player/toon” or just “a dps,” you’re referring to a character whose role in a group is to deal damage. There’s ranged dps and melee dps and even tank or healer dps. “The dps” tends to refer to all of your damage-dealing party members as a whole. In addition, you can instruct your group to start or stop dps, which basically means to start or stop attacking. Burst dps is that which is intended to be a lot over a small period of time, and generally refers to player vs. player content due to the unexpected nature of it, usually because of critical strikes or the short-term damage-boosting abilities many classes possess. This is contrasted with sustained dps, which is generally more favored in player vs. environment content*, where your target is likely to be alive for a long time (boss monsters in WoW currently have millions of health points, and most player abilities, even when dealing critical strikes (which are double damage hits), currently at level 85 are doing ten to twenty thousand damage each)).

*This may have changed with the huge increase of player health totals. Where at level 80 you probably had 20-30k health, you probably have 90-100k at level 85. Sustained dps is likely far more valuable in player vs. player content as a result (not that it was useless before, but burst was still very handy).

ANYWAY.

In my last post, I used the phrase “dps problem.” I was talking about how our heroic groups were wiping not because of a problem with healing, but because of an issue with the dps (or tank (me, in those cases)). Where the new DPS race is a race to deplete the monster’s health before the healer runs out of mana, not only do your damage-dealing party members need to do a lot of damage, but they need to do what they can to take less damage themselves and help others in the group do the same.

This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but if your group is having trouble with a boss in a dungeon (heroic or raid), look to a few things:

1) First, Blizzard has placed A LOT of importance on ensuring that you avoid damage where possible. There are a lot of effects which cause players to take damage if stood in. The safest way to not take damage in Cataclysm is to move out of anything that changes the color of the floor on which you’re standing (with a few exceptions!). An old (by WoW’s standards, anyway) adage: “Don’t stand in the fire!”

1a) If your class has a way to take less damage in general, use it when appropriate! (Cloak of Shadows, Feint, Shamanistic Rage, Divine Protection, Dispersion, etc.)

2) Crowd control is of great importance now as well. Reducing the number of monsters you have to fight at one time will greatly help your tank and healer.

3) Many monsters cast spells which do a significant amount of damage, or heal them for large amounts. These can be stopped by many classes, and is the best way for those classes without useful crowd control to help their groups.

So in addition to doing enough damage to beat the healer’s mana bar to zero, you can do a number of things to help the healer’s mana bar not fall as quickly! Use those abilities!


Warcraft: Eighty-Five, Dungeons, and the New DPS Race

12202010

It is odd to think of many of the instanced areas in WoW as “dungeons,” anymore – many of them are very open areas. But that is what they are called.

I have levelled my tank-spec death knight to 85. I played very little on release day due to how crowded it was. I think I dinged 85 on the 11th, basically during the first big rush but obviously towards the end of it. I was expecting it to take longer, but I suppose it was only five levels.

I have since run all of the dungeons on their normal settings, and likewise on heroic, excepting Throne of the Tides and Lost City of the Tol’vir. I’ve got to say that so far I really like what Blizzard has done. I kind of wish I could have leveled a healer first again (as I did in Burning Crusade and Wrath with my paladin) so that I could experience what is perceived as the truly difficult role, at least currently.

I want to point out, though, that I am totally with Blizzard on what is going on with the healer role. If they run out of mana to cast spells and people die, it is very easy for them to blame themselves. It is my feeling, though, that it is almost never their fault. It is the tank’s fault for not using damage-reducing cooldowns, or the damage dealers’ faults for not doing their job to avoid taking damage. Maybe the group should have used a crowd control spell on a different opponent, or maybe (and I think this is the big one, currently) the damage dealers aren’t doing damage fast enough.

In the heroic runs I’ve done so far, only a couple times could I have judged a wipe as the healer’s fault, and even then it is debatable. Every heroic I’ve done (except Vortex Pinnacle) has had one boss that wiped my group at least 3 times before we finally got it. The hardest of these was probably the shadow boss in Halls of Origination. At any rate, it has felt to me like the damage dealing characters have needed to step up their game far more than the healer did.

The bosses remain dps races. However, this is no longer against an arbitrary enrage timer mechanic, where after a certain amount of time the boss just does so much damage that it is impossible for anyone to survive (basically, the boss here is saying “okay, that’s enough of that silliness,” and kills the entire group within seconds from there and you’re all powerless to stop it…leaving you wondering why the boss doesn’t do that in the first place, if it has any semblence of self-preservation). Now, it is a race against the healers’ mana. You need to make the things that are hurting you dead before the healer can no longer keep you alive.

Not to be too harsh on all the damage dealers out there, it could be the tank’s fault as well. As a tank, if you see your health dipping lower and lower and it’s not going back up, or if you know you’re about to take a huge hit or a number of them, you need to think about using a tanking cooldown. As a death knight tank, I’ve found that my cooldowns that I really wanted to save before (for the right time that never came) I’m using all over the place now. Especially my 1-min. cooldown Vampiric Blood, which increases my healing received, making the healer’s heals 35% more efficient, and Rune Tap, which I’m fond of using as a minor group heal since I have it glyphed, healing myself for 20% of my total, and everyone in the group for 5% of theirs. If I notice that everyone’s missing a bit of health, I’ll use that to take just a bit of the edge off for the healer.

This does not indemnify every healer out there from making poor decisions that run them out of mana while healing. But if the healers are doing their jobs correctly, using the right heal for the job at hand, and still run out of mana…it is the fault of your damage dealers, and maybe even tanks.

Remember, too, that this will all get better as everyone continues to gear up. It always does.


Warcraft: Four Point Oh Point One

11102010

Death Knight tanking: The long cooldown on Death and Decay makes stuff frustrating. Lost a melee dps who did not assist. Need more practice.

Paladin healing: Required some acclimation and practice. More like learning to walk again, only much easier.

Hunter leveling: No mana? No ammo? No problem. Kill Command is less Damage per Focus than Arcane Shot? As Beast Mastery? Probably needs fixing.

Reflective water surfaces are awesome. The rippling effect is nice but wanting.

Prime glyphs, as predicted, are super boring. Major glyphs are terrific. Minor glyphs remain pretty stupid.

In every case so far, I am set in my first 31 talent points. It is the remaining five that I sometimes am unsure about spending…I expected more choice given the proclamations. I’d love an additional 2- or 3-point talent on many tiers. Still want more variance between individuals playing the same spec.

I’m starting to feel like the game would be better as either PvE or PvP. I feel like the developers, forced to fit the abilities/talents/glyphs into both is hurting the game. It is honestly amazing that they’ve done as well as they have but I would be in favor of sacrificing one for the sake of the other. (In my case, PvP for PvE.)

Overall I am in favor of the changes brought on by this patch. That said, I’ve hardly been playing, and am eagerly awaiting the expansion set to come out in less than a month.


Warcraft: Talent Trees, Part 3

07272010

After messing with the new talent trees for a bit (and with the usual caveat “it’s still beta so this could all change”), I have concluded that things have not changed much overall. Many talents have been rolled in to the class builds or removed, some new ones have been introduced. But we still don’t have enough choices in my opinion. I can safely pick up all of the talents I want and not be worried about those I am missing.

I am pretty sure Blizzard will be unable to truly follow through on building their talent trees to the point where there are “meaningful choices” between talents. Perhaps I have simply been playing the game for too long to have any issues with the choices I have and the decision is not difficult for me, but then we are back to the problem where inexperienced players will fall into the traps of choosing the poorer talents. This is not to say that I have made the correct choices per se, but I feel that these trees have talents that are, to me, obviously mandatory, especially within the primary tree for the spec.

It all starts out so beautifully…I have a choice between a 2-, 3-, or another 3-point talent on the first tier. They all sound okay! So far so good, I have to choose which ones I like best to put points into them! Filling up a 3-pointer and putting 2 into the other 3-pointer, I progress to the next tier. I figure I can fill that last point somewhere along the line. This process continues through the tree, and I can indeed go back and fill that last point because somewhere along the line there is a talent I don’t care for. In fact this happens a couple of times. In the end, I’ve put points into all of the talents I want and filled them, with enough points remaining to pick up some of the nice subspec talents in the other trees.

I feel that a number of other players will come to the same conclusions and repost their thoughts, find a great deal of agreement or at least go through a few tweaks. The result is approximately the same…the number of builds is limited. You might as well be along a set path when, at level 10, you click the button that says “Holy” or “Retribution”…where your spec is based on the spec you choose, instead of the talents therein.

So it comes down to, at least in some cases, having choice in your subspec. This is less true for hybrid classes. Choosing where to put my final 7 or so points as a mage is an interesting one, as they will all probably increase my damage in some way. But not so for my shaman…those last few points, with everything I want from Enhancement, are going into Elemental, to further increase my damage. If what Blizzard has said about personal accountability thus far for surviving through fights (and limits on the mana of healers) is true, then maybe I will toss them into Resto instead…but based on current themes, it’s not going to happen. (As an aside, Blizzard has also stated that they want hybrid classes to be more specialized and focused, so seeing an Enhancement shaman with worthwhile healing ability would seem unlikely.)

Time will tell.


Warcraft: Cataclysm For Some

07232010

The Cataclysm expansion is bringing about some changes that will affect certain classes on a very basic level. Hunters, for instance, will no longer use mana as casters do; they will use focus, a mechanic similar to energy. Paladins are getting Holy Power (I will agree with Blessing of Kings and World of Matticus guest poster Rykga concerning the name, “Zeal” sounds much better and allows us not to use the abbreviation HP); I’m not sure how it’s fitting into the UI, but they’re similar to combo points on the caster. Druids will have a built-in Eclipse bar; as they cast Nature spells, they will move closer to a Lunar Eclipse, which will grant them bonus arcane damage, and vice-versa. The runes used by Death Knights will regenerate differently, and the class will only have one dedicated tanking tree (Blood). Warlocks’ soul shards will work similarly to DK runes, but will regenerate verrrrrry slowly on their own, and can be used to amplify certain abilities. Some of the other classes’ trees are being more refined in order to separate them from each other: the Fury tree for warriors is going to place a heavy emphasis on Enrage mechanics to differentiate it further from the Arms tree.

However, some classes are not receiving any of this extensive treatment. Mages, Shaman, and Priests especially do not really seem to have much in the way of new stuff to look forward to. There are some fun-looking talents for sure and they will all be enjoying the new masteries system, but will yet just be using mana to keep casting many of the same spells as before. Rogues, too, while their combo points, energy, and stealth are already quite unique (aside from cat-spec feral druids), will not be getting a lot of the same new-and-shininess bestowed unto other classes.

I don’t blame Blizzard for this in the least, and the changes are of course not yet final; we may see something new for all of those “left-behind” classes. I just hope that they are all just as fun to play as any other, in the end.


Warcraft: Glyphs are Boring, Part 2

07202010

I’ve often given thought to what I would do to change the glyph system that is in place. Rather, how I would change the glyphs themselves. Blizzard’s current idea is to add in another tier of glyphs between the current minor and major distinctions. These “medium” glyphs would be for abilities that are not used nearly as often but where glyphs would be appreciated. (As of July 16, the three types of glyphs will be Prime, Major, and Minor: Prime glyphs are the current Majors, Major glyphs will be the middle-range, and Minor remains the same.)

Again, a problem I have with the current glyph system is that you typically take the glyphs that increase the effectiveness of your ability rotation the most, and just use those. There’s no room for the utility glyphs that might keep you alive a little longer (unless you’re a tank, in which case there’s no room for the glyphs that increase your damage output), or the ones that are useful but only very situationally.

There are a bunch of glyphs as I’ve mentioned that are bland. They increase the damage of one ability by x%. What changes could be made to make them more interesting?

Adding a category of glyph between the higher and lower glyphs is a good start. It gives players freedom to use those situational glyphs and the ones they like over the ones that will increase their damage the most. However, the three Prime glyph spots are going to end up being the same three for each spec unless there are changes in store I’m not aware of. (Note that the last time I logged into the beta, it was mentioned that the glyphs were undergoing a lot of changes (and that some of them may simply not work)…so my hopes are up.)

My opinion: Blizzard should give the playerbase more flexibility. I understand the need for balance but surely there are some things they can do.

The ideas I’ve come up with are typically ways to fill holes in buffs/debuffs in a 10-man raid:

* Glyph of Plague Strike (or Glyph of Blood Plague) – Causes the disease to reduce attack power, like Demoralizing Shout, granting Death Knight tanks the ability to reduce the attack power of many mobs in the absence of a warrior or druid. Alternatively, causes the disease to reduce spell power. (Current: increases the damage dealt by the strike by 20%.)
* Glyph of Obliterate – Reduces the armor of the target by something like 2/3 of the amount a full stack of sunder armor for 15 seconds, but does not stack with sunder or expose armor from rogues. I’ve always felt that the name Obliterate was too cool to be applied to an ability that was just a simple weapon strike. (Current: increases the damage dealt by 20%)
* Glyph of Lightning Shield – Casting Lightning Shield causes a small-ish AoE around the caster. Alternatively, adds the damage to lightning spellcasts, consuming charges, enabling its use by elemental shaman. (Current: increases the damage dealt by 20%)
* Glyph of Frostfire Bolt – Casting Frostfire Bolt reduces the cast time of your next Fireball or Frostbolt by 20%, stacking up to 5 times. Mages haven’t been chain-casting the same one spell for the entire duration of a fight for some time, but this should spice things up for Frostfire mages anyway. (Current: increases the critical strike chance by 2% and the damage by 2%.)
* Glyph of Death Coil – Resets the cooldown on Demonic Teleport, Howl of Terror, Shadowflame, and Shadowfury. (Current: increases the duration by 0.5 seconds)

I admit, the above are just as similar to talents as they already are in-game. However, they would affect gameplay far more, in my opinion.

Another aspect to glyphs could be added efficiency, but with some drawback. This was implemented with a number of glyphs when Wrath of the Lich King shipped and granted them greater distinction from talents, but most (if not all) of the disadvantages on these glyphs were removed in later patches to encourage use.

Glyph of Death Coil (Warlock), for instance, could read something like: “Increases the duration of Death Coil by 5 seconds, but reduces your movement and casting speeds by 50% for 5 seconds as well.” Or, “Increases the healing you receive from your Death Coil ability by 300%, but removes the horror effect.” The second one would be great for PvE. The hindrances added to the first may be too severe…they are both just examples.

Another example could be a glyph for Hand of Freedom: “Increases the duration by 6 seconds, but does not remove existing movement-impairing effects when cast.” Or Glyph of Shield Slam: “Increases the damage dealt by 40%, but reduces chance to block by 20% for 6 seconds after casting.”

Another option for glyphs could be to change the system entirely; instead of class-specific ability-modifying glyphs, they could affect far more general attributes, as the (now-scrapped) Path of the Titans system was to do. The entire reason they scrapped the project was because it was too similar to the glyph system.

The Path of the Titans was a character enhancement system funneled down from the Archaeology secondary profession. You’d have like 10 slots, and each would be a minor boost to some aspect of your character. I do not remember a lot of the details, but individual slots had buffs such as “Reduces damage taken by 4%.” Each one had another effect as well, I believe with the intent of the player choosing one or the other.

Regrettably I do not think we will see significant changes to the glyph system. But time will tell.


Warcraft: Blizzard Twitter Q&A

07162010

Link.

They answered one of my eight questions.

Q. If every specialization is intended to take their 31-point talent, why is it not baseline at the level you could acquire it?
A. Those talents are a good “brass ring” to work towards. They often change your character pretty dramatically when you get them, so it’s a fun moment. There is definitely an interesting philosophical discussion about talent trees and how many talents should be mandatory vs. optional. Some players would like a model where everything is on equal footing with everything else. Others want to make sure there are some safe decisions so that they don’t have to do tons of theory-crafting research every time they talent their character. We are trying to shoot for something in the middle where we have some expectation for how a particular spec will play (for example, we don’t want to have to develop and support the non-Chaos Bolt Destruction rotation) but players can still decide if say Blitz is something their Arms warrior will use or not.