Thursday, April 29, 2010

Busting the Top 9 Myths About the Cataclysm Raid Changes

Let me preface by saying that I’ve been a raider since back when BWL was the highest tier. My 40-man guild went deep into AQ40. I lived through it as that same guild transitioned to 25s. Then I ran a 25-man raiding guild for a year as the primary raid leader. Then I ran a 10-man strict guild for 2 years, and now I lead a 10-man guild that hosts a 25-man guild alliance run. I’m really, really familiar with every facet of this debate, having led both 10 and 25 man raids as well as having firsthand experience of the 40 to 25 transition.

Now let’s move on to shattering the myths about the new raid changes.

Myth 1: You have to roll against more people in 25s.

Yes, I know, it seems obvious that with 15 more people there, you’d have more competition for loot in 25s. But it’s a myth: Blizzard has stated clearly that 25s will drop more items per person. There is no room for misinterpretation: there is a 0% chance that 25s will only drop 3 or even 5 items if 10s drop 2. It seems most likely that if 10s drop 2 items per boss kill, 25s will drop 6-7. Now do some math: 6.5/25 is a BIGGER NUMBER than 2/10. Which means that even though there are more people in the 25, you will actually have a better chance at personally getting loot in the 25-man raid because so many more items drop (and there is absolutely no reason to assume we won’t see the same item more than once per kill in this case).

Myth 2: We lose too much content with the shared lockout.

All that will happen is you won’t be able to run the same instance twice a week on the same character. Do you really like rerunning the same instance over and over like you do now? Is it a good thing that 25-man raiders feel pressured to run 10 man to get double the emblems? Is it a good thing that 10-man raiders have little to no access to the 25-man run while the bigger groups can easily do both sizes in the same week?

If you have a small group of friends you like to raid 10s with outside your 25-man guild, or if you are a 10-man guild who enjoys a 25-man alliance, that’s easily solved with alts. And if you don’t have time to level an alt, then why are you asking to get to raid the same instance twice a week anyway?

Another easy solution would be to do the previous tier’s content with the other group. Hopefully Blizzard will set up the tiers so hard mode loot from the previous tier is still relevant (but not required), so you have a reason to do so.

If you just prefer to have the freedom to run the instance twice if you so choose, then you are really arguing against lockouts altogether. Why not get rid of every lockout, if having fewer lockouts is inherently better? Oh yeah, because it would break the game.

Myth 3: 10s will be too hard to balance and make class stacking a problem

This one is legitimate as a suspicion, but not a fair assumption to make with this little information. Blizzard design hasn’t been perfect, but they’ve done a pretty good job overall.

As for class stacking: we have no idea if there will be buff changes made to go along with the raid changes. There is no reason why you can’t get a good mix of buffs with any reasonable comp if they set it up right. They’ve already started spreading buffs out.

It’s OK to have reduced faith in Blizzard, but it’s too early to just assume they will blow it. And it’s especially silly to assume they haven’t thought of this yet.

Another thing to keep in mind: right now, everyone is focused on how much bigger a logistical challenge 25-mans are to organize. Well what if the unique challenge 10-man leaders face is in forming a comp that optimizes buffs, while 25-man leaders don’t have to worry about that because they will inevitably have every buff covered?

Myth 4: The devs want to kill 25s

Hah! If they did, they would have just removed them from the game, instead of going out of their way to make sure there are still incentives to do them. Would all of the work they will put into making 25-man versions of dungeons be worth it if their plan is to “stealth kill” all 25-man raids?

Myth 5: The devs will let 25s die (unintentionally)

I’ve often been cynical of Blizzard’s design choices. I can understand this impulse. But every indication is that they are committed to making whatever adjustments are necessary to make both raid sizes into viable choices that people will be interested in. There is no way they are so stupid that if they want 25s to stay alive (as we’ve already established) that they would accidentally totally fail at their goal. Blizzard makes many choices I don’t agree with, but it’s pretty rare for them to outright fail through incompetence.

Myth 6: I love 25s because they are more epic, but obviously no one else does so I’ll never get 24 others together for it after these changes

I have seen this one so many times that I could form a dozen 25-man raids out of the people who say it. It seems like tons of people just prefer the bigger raids. If anything, the response to the changes has proven that 25s will never actually die unless they are removed from the game. What surprises me is how all of these people assume that no one else feels the same way. The entire point is that you feel free to pick the format you prefer rather than having to "game the system" by doing 25s just to get worthwhile gear.

Here’s an example of this one from Dawn Moore at

She opens her thoughts with:“I play in a high ranking 25-man guild because that is what I love to do. I don't do it for the glory, better gear, prettier mounts, or legendary items.”

Then she ends them with: “ Blizzard's proposal removes the incentive to do 25-man raids, which will kill the majority of 25-man guilds, which in turn will kill the community I come to the game for. I hate to say it, but for the first time ever I have been served a very good reason to quit the game.”

Yeah, you read that right. She really did just say that she doesn’t raid 25s for the glory or the gear, but now that the glory and gear are gone she has no incentive to do them anymore. GG, Dawn.

Remember back in TBC when everyone was doing arena because losing 10 matches a week would get you a weapon that blew away what was available to most people in a raid? Remember how so many of those people hated arena and never would have done it if they hadn’t seen that it was by far the optimal way to progress their character? Ever notice how now that the rewards are more balanced, the only people in the arenas are those who love arena, and everyone is happier?

That’s exactly what happened to 25s in Wrath. They were the only legitimate PvE progression path (10s offered gear that was a tier behind) through this entire expansion. Tons of people who preferred 10s or other activities felt compelled to do 25s because they were the only avenue to “real” gear and achievements (because 25-man guilds could just cheese the 10-man achieves, rendering them irrelevant). Now that 10 vs 25 is a real choice, and both are legitimate progression paths, those people will leave 25s.

Let me rephrase that: those people will stop doing an activity they didn’t like as much in favor of one that is more fun for them.

Yes, that’s an awful thing to have happen! How dare they have more fun while still relevantly progressing their character!!! This isn’t some game, goddammit!

If you are in a 25-man guild and you think that losing the higher tier of gear over 10s is going to cause many people to leave your guild, that means they didn’t want to be there and were only there because you were bribing them. Are you really trying to tell me you prefer the system where you bribe/blackmail your friends into having less fun? Rather than the system where everyone chooses the activity they want, and gets rewarded either way?

Myth 7: Raid leaders won’t want to lead 25s anymore.

It’s undeniable that organizing a 25-man raid and guild is way more difficult and stressful than managing a 10-man guild. But what is the incentive right now to lead a 25-man raid? A higher tier of gear? That higher tier goes out to the entire raid, not just the leaders. How come the rest of the guild gets rewarded just because the leaders work harder?

The weirdest thing about this argument is that 25-man raiders and leaders aren’t losing anything. They are, in fact, gaining. They still get the top-of-the-line gear, only in Cataclysm they get a lot more of it per boss than they did in Wrath.

If it’s not the gear, then is it the prestige? Not only will 25-man raid leaders still be competing at the cutting edge just like they do now, but their raids will have an innate advantage over 10-man raids: they will gear up faster (including much faster emblem income). If you are hardcore and want to compete for server or world firsts, you will NEED to be a 25-man raid guild because the gear advantage will help propel you to the top. You simply won’t be truly competitive if you are a 10-man guild. So the prestige may be reduced, but it is still there for 25s.

Yes, the number of 25-man guilds will be reduced, and fewer people will want to lead 25s. But it will happen not because no one will want to do 25s anymore, but because people who didn’t want to be doing 25s in the first place will finally feel free to choose not to do them while still being able to advance their character.

Myth 8: The 10 best people in my 25 man guild will just ditch the ones who are “holding them back”.

GOOD. This one boggles my mind. The statement in itself admits that 15 people in your raid are being carried and don’t deserve their victories or spoils, and it implies that the top 10 resent having to do the carrying, but don’t think they have any choice because without the other 15 people they won’t have access to the current tier of gear. I mean, seriously? That's your argument?

Myth 9: First 10 people to hit level cap will not want to wait for the other 15 to catch up and will ditch us.

What? How is this situation ANY DIFFERENT from Wrath? The first 10 people got to 80 and started doing Naxx 10. Then the guild switched over to 25s as soon as enough people were max level. In both situations, the first 10 were ahead on gear. But with 10s and 25s sharing the same difficulty, that will actually be less of a problem in Cata than it was in Wrath.

Yes, I get that the idea is that those 10 will think that using their gear will allow them to progress faster than they would in the 25 with a lower average gearscore. That sort of makes sense…if you are willfully ignoring the fact that with more drops per person on each boss in 25s, they’d make up that deficit almost immediately, and would end up far better geared in the long run.


As you can see, pretty much every argument I’ve seen claiming this is a disaster, or a bad change overall, has giant, gaping holes in it. I was trying to figure out why it seemed to be “gutting” the fun for some people, then I read this statement by Jerome Phillips, and it all fell into place [emphasis mine]:

“The competitive raiding scene is what drove me to play WoW. I started in a casual guild in Vanilla and as I discovered and grasped the concept of a 'top' guild I worked hard to become better at the game so that I could join one. I wanted to play the best and be the best and I worked for it and I still do. It is by far the primary reason I and the majority of players in my guild play this game. When I'm not playing WoW, I play MW2, COD4, and MvC2. Highly competitive games that force you to exert relentless dominance over your competitors and instill a sense of superiority and accomplishment in achieving a win and/or goal. This same feeling is why I and people in guilds such as mine play this game…why would anybody run 25-mans in Cataclysm? The hardcore players like myself have no sense of accomplishment and no discernable way to establish who is best.

It became clear to me: these arguments that break down under scrutiny are actually smokescreens. The reality is: a lot of 25-man raiders were doing it because they liked feeling superior to 10-man raiders.*

The saddest part is that they don’t realize how artificial that superiority was. The only people who work harder in a 25 are the leaders. Period. The average joe in those guilds does nothing more than any 10-man raider does. In fact, 10-mans are tuned similarly to 25s for their own tier of gear (go look up the health and damage numbers yourself if you don’t believe me).

Right now, 25-man raiders can pretend they are better than any given 10-man raider, but the reality is that they don’t really know who’s better. After getting screwed over for years on end, please forgive me for not feeling sorry for the people who spent those years benefitting from the system that was screwing me now that they have to face - gasp! - the prospect of a more level playing field!

If you are a competitive person, wouldn’t you rather the playing field be evened so you can find out who’s really best, rather than getting a false sense of superiority from a rigged system?

There were tons of great players who chose 10-man, but never got any respect or recognition for their skill. With the artificial signal of superiority gone, that type of 25er is in for a rude awakening: you aren’t as superior as you thought, unless you yourself were organizing the raids.

Now we have a way to really establish who is best. And guess what – some of those 10-man raiders are going to be better than you.

OK, that would have been a great way to end the post. But I just can’t do it. As Larisa reminded me with this post, everyone in this argument has feelings, and many people are reacting more out of fear that their own raid group that they have grown to call home will be torn apart. In fact, I bet the vast majority of people arguing against the change are well-meaning and simply reacting to what they perceive as a threat to their current raiding group.

Of course no one likes that, and it’s understandable that perfectly reasonable people would be unhappy about it and be searching for way to convince others that it is a bad change when really they just don’t want to see their group broken up. In the end, I still hold the opinion that the old system was inherently broken and unfair and that the new system is a massive improvement to the game overall that must be done. But I extend my truly heartfelt condolences to anyone who loves the guild that they built under the broken system and might now see their friends torn apart by an improvement to the game.

*I said “a lot” I did not say “every” or even “most”. Please don’t assume I was talking about you unless you actually suspect you are that type of person.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cataclysm Raid Changes Kill Guild Websites

The sky is falling!

My guild hosts it's site and forums for free on We've never had any problems with the site. It's passable.

Almost immediately after the raid change announcement yesterday, the entirety of wowstead went down. It is still down.

Hm. Guild-shaking raid change that sends everyone into a tizzy of speculation about where their guild will end up comes out. Guild forum hosting goes down on the same day.


Monday, April 26, 2010

It's finally happening. 10 and 25 sharing lockout and gear.

I'm in shock right now. I always hoped this would happen, but I never really believed it would.

Thank you, Blizzard. You just won yourself a purchase and months of subscriptions money that was in doubt until this moment.

Oh, and by the way? I designed this exact system exactly a year ago Saturday.

Update: To add to the debate and discourse, I'd like to call attention back to this post by Rohan:

It puts forward a very plausible model for endgame dungeon tiers that creates an incentive to run two tiers at once. This could be a good solution to the "Blizzard's taking away half my raid IDs!" dilemma presented by the changes. To boil it down: If you clear the current raid tier and still want to raid, you can go back to the hard mode of the previous tier and still get useful gear.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ghostcrawler on Population and Perception

Now that you've read what I have to say about population and perception's role in MMO design, here is Ghostcrawler's take. He says a ton of stuff that backs up my points. I came up with the idea for the post and wrote most of it before reading this. I swear it's coincidence that they share some similarities.

It's too long for me to quote here, so follow the link and read it. He makes a few specific points I'd like to touch on:

In GC's second post in the thread, he talks about why they don't balance around population, and how it's OK to not have all 10 classes at a perfect 10% balance.

I want to be clear about this: I agree with him that there is no need to strive for exact balance. There are devoted fans of every class and spec. They all appeal to some people. Just because fewer people are attracted to demonic wizards than they are to shining holy knights is no reason to simply nerf Paladins until their population is even with warlocks.

I also agree that simply nerfing a class to balance population is yucky.

But, I do not agree with his entire post. For one thing, simple aesthetic preference, or even game mechanic preference, are only responsible for part of a class's population. There are always people flocking to classes perceived to be overpowered, and avoiding a class they love because it seems underpowered. Acknowledging personal preference does not excuse you from having to consider population in your MMO design.

Also, he's thinking too small, just in terms of obvious numeric buffs or nerfs. To borrow GC's own phrase: there are more levers you can pull.

How about the races? Blizzard has already taken good steps in this direction by not allowing either of the new races to be Paladins, and allowing the new races to feature most of the less popular choices. But why can't Night Elves be Shaman?

How about group buffs? Being a hybrid is too desirable at the moment. Let them keep the current advantage of role switching without also piling on the legacy of buff variety that you held over from TBC in the name of not rocking the boat too much. Give BoK to rogues. Have Ret Paladins only give one bonus buff instead of 3 (yes, by simply being there and specced Ret, you give 3% crit, 3% haste, and 3% damage on top of replenishment, a blessing, and the aura's base effect. I'm not kidding. Currently, a rogue can bring, at max, ONE buff to a raid.) and spread some of them out to pure classes a bit more. Inviting a Paladin to your 10-man should be a trade-off: flexibility for utility. Balance it so on his own, a Ret Paladin does damage close to the rogue, and can switch roles if needed - but the rogue brings 5 buffs and the paladin only 2. So every Paladin you invite to your 10-man raid gives you more reason to add a pure class to make up for the buff deficit. Right now it's the other way around, exacerbating the population problem.

How about ease of play? Blizzard is pretty on-the-ball about balancing the potential dps numbers each class can reach. But they haven't done much lately to balance the ease of playing each class. It sounds like they may make strides in this direction in Cataclysm, especially by forcing Paladins to have a rotation that matches the others more, and by giving DKs, Rogues, Hunters, and Warriors more user-friendly resource systems, and simplifying the Feral Druid rotation. Make Paladins apply an array of debuffs while reducing the prerequisites and build-up time of "pure" dps specs, while leaving all specs with similar mathematical damage potential. Make Paladins and Druids have to wrangle their abilities carefully and thoughtfully to hold equal aoe threat to a Warrior or Dk who isn't even looking at the screen (ie reverse the current situation). All 4 classes should have the same threat potential, but it should be easier to reach that potential for the less flexible class, instead of the other way around.

Some example changes: Crusader Strike does less damage, but applies a debuff that increases the Paladin's holy damage. Divine Storm is no longer cost-effective on single-targets. Holy Shock becomes a go-to nuke on a longish cooldown, but Exorcism does more damage but requires an Art of War proc, which is harder to get. Judgements do more damage to enemies with the Righteous Vengeance dot ticking on them, so it makes sense to plan when you use it. Tanking Paladins find that Consecrate has a longer cooldown than its duration, meaning you -OMG - actually have to think about when to use it, god forbid!. Meanwhile, rogues spam SS and SnD/Evis.

OK, went off on a bit of a tangent there. Back to GC's post:

At one point, GC objects to a player who suggests that the classes at the top "should be made miserable" I object to that idea too! I agree that the goal is to make sure everyone has fun. But the problems I see with GC's stance are:

1) It's not a dichotomy. You can make moves to help balance class representation without making anyone miserable. In fact, the net result of such changes can actually be to increase overall happiness! I think it's disingenuous to suggest that population should be discounted as a balance concern because you don't want to make people sad.

2) Representation differences can often mean there is a real balance problem, or a dangerous perception problem. Either way, it may need to be addressed in a way that makes some players have less fun, temporarily, in order to make the game better and more fun overall.

He seems well aware of perception and population as issues, but I'm not sure he takes them as seriously as they warrant.

I'd like to close with the best and most perceptive GC quote of the whole thread:

"We know (and so we have to be very careful about it) that players will do monumentally unfun or even self-destructive things if it conveys even a small advantage."

Yet another reason why the developer's caretaking of the playerbase is so important, and why population balance should be a bigger consideration.

Population vs. Design, and the importance of perception

I recently made a giant poopy - I mean, post about population in Cataclysm. Now I'd like to go into why I think population matters.

There is some truth to the statement that forming a raid full of druids and paladins would be easy because they can cover all of the roles. Is it really that bad if a few classes dominate the population?

Yes. Yes it is. But why?

One issue is buff stacking. If you can cover most of the group buffs with only paladins and druids, but no other 2-class combo can, then those too classes have too much group utility. Another issue is comparative class advantages: there are going to be other benefits to other classes as well. For instance, my group would have it a lot easier in phase 1 Lich King if we had a rogue for Tricks of the Trade > FoK on the ghouls. Other examples include Death Grip (Malygos), Misdirect, and the strength of block tanks on Anub. If both your tanks are Paladins, your raid is not going to be as effective as if you had two tanks of different classes.

The last, and most important one, is perception. What the game seems to be matters as much as what it actually is, and how players feel is more important than what they are told is true.
The easiest example of why perceptions matters pops up every time a new patch comes out. A nerf to a class makes many players of that class feel weaker, and perceive their class as weaker, even if they were overpowered before and the nerf simply brought them into line (or even just made them slightly less overpowered!). Players become less happy with their class, and a bunch will even switch “mains” when this happens. I’ll use the case I’m most familiar with: Death Knights.

There was a time (Wrath release until ToC) when the majority of the population believed DKs to be overpowered. In some aspects, they certainly were. This belief was a major factor in their popularity. They are still very strong (outside of arena), but have been nerfed enough that their popularity has dropped precipitously. Every nerf lowered the number of DKs – especially as “mains” – even though they remained a powerful class. But being perceived as “nerfed” hurt them.

DKs also lost ground for being perceived as the weakest tank after they were nerfed in the ToC patch. They had been basically required for hardmodes in Ulduar, and were rebalanced in response to that. Their popularity fell even more as they became the only tanks without a block mechanic in the era of the auto-LFD-omatic. Facerolling heroics is a lot easier as a tank when you block big chunks of all the little hits coming your way. DKs are still good tanks overall, but they are harder to heal in heroics.

Death Knights are still a strong class: one of the highest raid DPS classes, effective in BGs, bringing a good mix of buffs, and effective tanks on any content that matters. But their population and time played is dropping precipitously because they are perceived as weaker than their competition.

On the flip side, Paladins have seen a surge in popularity from which the game itself has yet to recover. In the pre-Wrath patch Blizzard completely and utterly broke the game, making Ret Paladins into 2-shotting-during-a-stunlock Battleground GODS (at level 70. Few cared that they would be balanced at 80 and against resilience). This along with the efforts to balance all 4 tank classes and the perception that Paladins were the best AoE tanks (thank you Shattered Halls) led to an explosion in Paladin population. Let’s not even get into how much dual specs benefit them.

It sucks to feel like a sucker. It sucks to feel weak. It sucks to walk around Dalaran and have every other character you see be a Paladin or Druid. It sucks to watch groups fill up with half pink names. It sucks to have any group that is forming go out of its way to get a Paladin when none happen to be around. It sucks to hear “oh we need to get a Paladin for XX reason” or “Yay, 3 paladins!” in raid chat or vent.

And it really sucks to perceive that Paladins are better than all of the other classes, and to see everyone but Paladins agree with you (but they keep playing their Paladins no matter how much they fish-for-buffs-I-mean-complain, of course). Their population is out of control in part because they are perceived to be so much better.

It sucks to try a Paladin myself and realize that they are more effective and easier to play in every way. That’s right, I’ve got a new Paladin at level 80, currently grinding out triumph emblems in heroics. I’ve played him pretty much equally between Ret and Prot. In both of those roles, he is so much easier to play than any of my other characters, while being effortlessly effective. FCFS and Clash Resolution and 9-6-9-6-9 (for those of you who are familiar with Paladins) are simple to master. As a tank, the AoE packs stick to you like glue, and the short cooldowns and constant nature of Consecrate mean that you’re never caught without a strong response (unlike a DK who just used up his runes or a warrior with Thunderclap on cooldown, which btw GC used to rub their inferiority to Paladins in their faces here). I never have to worry about putting up diseases or combo points or rage or runic power. I just hit buttons. It’s ridiculous.

Pictured: the Paladin District in Dalaran

Regardless of where things are numerically or rationally: when players perceive imbalance, they will be less happy with your game. Their experience will be tarnished. Blizzard shouldn’t just rely on what the numbers say: they should put more stock in the playerbase’s perceptions.

Right now, the game is reasonably close to balance, if you look at it as a spreadsheet (not counting population numbers). But many players perceive some classes as being stronger, some as being easier, and the game being easier as a whole. These specific topics dominate the conversation about the game. It’s not good for your game, Blizzard.

Players do not like feeling like they are being punished for playing a class that is most appealing to them while it looks to them like Paladins and Druids enjoy advantage after advantage. And population matters a lot of each player’s enjoyment, because when they see players flock to a few seemingly advantaged classes, it makes them feel like a sucker, or feel forced to switch classes as well. Aside from that, the game gets kind of boring when you see the same class over and over. Forming a raid or recruiting is also a problem, because you are more likely to end up with another character of a class you already have enough of, and have trouble finding the classes that would help your raid the most (with utility, buffs, lack of gear competition, etc.)

Bottom line: population matters - and perception matters – to how fun your MMO is for the players.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quote of the Day:

"I just hope that Blizzard is using some of that extra money to speed up their expansion development cycle, because *that* is where they are losing customers from right now."

Never thought I'd be afraid of a sparkly pony

First off, this hilarious video by Totalbiscuit:

I have verified -at much risk to life and limb - that the reference to homosexuals is not anti-gay, but just a statement that the sparkly pony is "faaaabulous!"

Anywho, quick statement on the horse: overall, I find the insanely high demand for the thing terrifying given it's price.

I am also kind of sickened by the (frankly unecessary) marketing ploys they're using to artificially increase demand.

But it doesn't scare me for the reasons you may think. I'm not worried Blizzard is going to compromise the integrity of the game by selling gear or achievements. I don't think Cataclysm will be an RMT-palooza.

But I am worried that the millions of dollars they just made in one day in return for a few hours of work by an artist and a programmer is going to . . . skew their priorities a bit. After all, they are a for-profit company, and in the end their goal is to make the most money, not make the best game. Making such good games is just a good way to make money.

Companies are meant to make money, and there is nothing wrong with that. I don't begrudge Blizzard the millions they made yesterday at all. Obviously, hundreds of thousands of people thought $25 was a fair price for a mount. I'm not even criticizing them. The whole thing was generally a win for everyone all around: people who wanted the mount for that price got it, Blizz made a ton of cash, and no one who didn't want the mount is hurt by the whole thing.

Or are they? (dun dun DUNNNNNN)

The only thing I'm worried about is a priority shift. Now that Blizzard has invested so much in laying the groundwork of creating a game that so many people love so much that hundreds of thousands of them are willing to pay half the cost of an entirely new video game just for a new graphic on their mount - quite an accomplishment in itself - what is their motivation to keep investing those resources into polishing the rest of the game? Are the i's going to be dotted and t's crossed anymore? Let's look at a hypothetical (and likely hyperbolic) example just to get my point across.

From Blizzard's point of view:

Option 1: Release an innovative, deep dungeon full of new art, cool lore, and great music, voice acting, and sound effects (think Ulduar). Make a number of new models and animations.

Option 2: Take half of those artists off of making the dungeon and have them design a few cool pets and mounts for the store instead. Phone in the dungeon with stale graphics and mechanics, very few bosses, and with every single enemy model fully recycled (think ToC).

Let's say both of those options cost the same amount of money. Option 1 has an indefinable value in keeping customers interested and excited about the game. But ToC showed that releasing a crap dungeon with no new assets will have little to no effect on subscriptions numbers (the main effect is lowering overall excitement for your game, which may eventually lead to a noticeable reduction in profits).

Option 2 will make you 3 million dollars in one day.

As a for-profit company, which of those two options do you pick?

That's why I'm worried that the rest of the game will start being phoned in. We'll see fewer new character models as the artistic resources get redirected towards filling the store. I'm scared that the game, overall, will get worse because spending those resources on pets instead is so much more financially attractive.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cataclysm Class Population, or "World of Paladins 2: Now With More Paladins"

As promised, here I am bringing out my Crystal Ball of Dubious Accuracy and telling you what I think will happen to the class populations in WoW based on the design intent evident in the class previews that were released over the past few weeks. I consider class population balance to be crucially important to WoW, and I find it shocking how little Blizzard developers seem to consider it when balancing classes. But I'll get into that in more detail later.

Current Populations:

Before going into predictions, it will be useful to look at the current class populations statistics. Despite the prevalence of max-level alts to switch to, the class of each player's current "main" will likely be the biggest deciding factor in which class they play in Cataclysm. There will need to a strong reason to switch, especially since mounts, pets, and achievements are non-transferrable (something that I'm almost begging Blizzard to change, even if it's for a fee). For instance, I have not been willing to begin to entertain the thought of switching mains away from my Death Knight because of his Rusted Proto Drake . . . plus all the pets (many impossible or horrendously difficult to replace), mounts (including a 12k gold motorcycle), and achievements.

All of this data considers only level 80 characters.

Right now, Armory Data Mining puts the classes at:

To back up that data with a second source, here are the likely-less-accurate numbers from the Warcraft Census:

I'm going to assume that a comparably large percentage of these level 80 DKs are not mains, given the high DK starting leve and the "shiny and new" factor. I don't see any reason to consider any of the other classes less likely to be mains or more likely to be alts.

In summary, there are way too many goddamned Paladins.

Role representation is also a concern. Basing my estimates off of the percentage of all Paladins and Warriors who specced Prot, we can assume that roughly 7% of the population is a DK or Druid tank. Add on the prot tanks, and only 16% of the population is a tank.

20% of a 5-man or 10-man is a tank. On the other hand, 12% of a 25-man raid is a tank. That means there are too many tanks for 25-man raids, but not even close to enough for 5-man or 10-man content. This indicates that Blizzard needs to balance 25-man raids to include more tanks, and if that's not enough, take more steps to increase the tank population.

The problem is similar for healers: only 18% of all level 80's heal. Sure, you only need 20% for 5-mans, but raids need about 25%.

No matter how you look at it, there is a healer shortage, and a massive tank shortage outside of 25-man raids.

Pure DPS classes have nosedived in Wrath, filling out the bottom of the population list. Overall, they make up 32% of the population, vs 34% who are hybrids playing a DPS class. It seems clear that the community perceives the benefits of hybrids, especially with dual-spec available, as far outweighing the unevenly-implemented "hybrid tax". Unless something is explicitly done to prevent it, I believe this trend will continue.

Take-away points:
  • 25-mans must be rebalanced to require more tanks.
  • Tank and healer populations need to be increased
  • Pure dps classes need to be be more appealing for dps relative to hybrid dps classes
  • We need fewer plate dps and more leather dps

In predicting class populations, it also makes sense to consider the current popularity of each race. It stands to reason that many players will be loathe to leave their favorite race, or consider race as a factor when considering a new main.

Armory Data Mining:

Warcraft Census:

Humans and elves are predominant. The most physically imposing races come next, as does the "darkest" race. The ugliest and smallest races take up the rear. Apparently, the type of people who play WoW a lot want to roleplay as something beautiful, big and strong. Whodathunkit?

Worgen will be explosively popular. They will hit the ultimate trifecta heretofore untouched by other races: they will be the Shiny New Thing, and the "darkest" thing, and also be able to look exactly like the most popular race at the drop of a hat, all at the same time! Everyone will make a Worgen. But few will make a Worgen their new main before they are opened up for race changes from existing characters. So 3 months after Cata release, they will be few and far between at 80. 6 months after and beyond, they will eventually overtake most other races, just as the Blood Elves have since BC.

Goblins are both ugly and short. Being shiny, new, and highly anticipated will help them, but they will never exceed even Orcs in population.

Rating Each Class Preview

So how did each class preview pan out? Look! I rate them from 1-10! Based on how much they would make people want to main that class in Cata!

Death Knight

Blood became the dedicated tanking tree, which is a good change but won't help the numbers. Rune system change is great, but a bit under-the-hood, so would only lead to modest population uptick. New abilities are extremely lackluster.

Rating: 4


Almost every change addresses something wrong with druids. They are getting a few cool abilities, more buttons to push as bear, an easier cat rotation, eclipse is getting overhauled, their heals are staying largely intact and benefiting from crit and haste, and there are no clear nerfs. Wow.

Rating: 8


They are getting Focus instead of mana, which will push away almost no one and draw a few more in. The increased pet stable will be a big draw. Their rotation is getting less frantic. Annoyances like Ammunition are going away. Pets are getting increased raid utility. And the new abilities are very exciting.

Rating: 6


Bloodlust, only better. Since BL isn't going away, keen players will find the buff to be a big draw to a mage or shaman. Other new abilities are OK, but there are very few mechanics changes.

Rating: 5


Are you fucking serious? Cool new abilities (one of them is literally "flashy") that all have utility in both PvE and PvP, easier buffing, and Paladins become the only class with an exclusive buff (Kings, though GC started a rumor that Druids might get it).

Rating: 9.5


Strong mechanic improvements, and flashy, cool new spells like Life Grip (though Life Grip will turn some people off because it gives them extra responsibility). The changes should rope in some people who would otherwise be turned off, but priest populations will always remain relatively stable.

Rating: 7


The combo point system is improved (that system was the biggest annoyance with rogues) and survivability is going up, while stunlocks are nerfed. Smoke Bomb is super-flashy. Rogue population will go up among raiders and down among gankers.

Rating: 6


Lots of flashy, cool new spells, but little in the way of mechanic changes or real improvements.

Rating: 8


Shard overhaul, decent new spells, and green fire. A few nice mechanics changes.

Rating: 7


Awesome fix to rage. Heroic Strike going away as an on-next-attack spam button. New abilities are booooring. No news on exactly how they will be improved to be brought in line with the other tanks on ease of aoe threat, or how the other tanks will be nerfed (yes, vague things have been said so far, but not enough concrete stuff to bank on).

Rating: 2

Healer and Tank changes:

One last thing to consider before we get to the predictions are the major changes being made to healers, and to a lesser extant tanks, as a whole.

The healing change to make them care about mana is a great design idea, if I understand it correctly. We won't know how good it is until we play it, but it sounds like we won't need to keep people topped off at all, instead doing triage based on leaving some people who aren't in danger at medium health. It follows that someone at half-health isn't likely to die in the next few seconds unless they are staying in the fire.

But the healing change is a major turn-off for healers. No matter how much PR GC tries to do, the bottom line is that it sounds like a nerf, and sounds like more work (even if it's not going to turn out that way). What GC needs to do ASAP is release a video demonstrating what healing will be like in Cataclysm, and showing very clearly why it will actually be more fun and less stressful.

As Gevlon and others have pointed out, if you make healer mana the limiting factor in a raid's or group's success, then you give everyone even more reason to blame the healers. Even if it isn't the healer's fault, the social perception will be that it's easy to blame the healer. And Blizzard is continually thinking of this game too much as a game system when they should be thinking about it as a social environment a lot more. Hire Tobold to be your social engineer!

Meanwhile, the tanking changes that make threat scale better with gear are broadly appealing, though talk of making AoE tanking more difficult will likely be misunderstood by some as a nerf.


Now that that's out of the way, here are my predictions, from lowest to highest, of populations percentages for each class at 85 about 3 months after the release of Cataclysm.

Shaman: 6.5%

Bad news, shamans. No amount of Healing Rain can save you. Mages are getting Bloodlust, and none of the most popular races can be your class, including Worgen (and lots of Draenei players will switch to Worgen). The only new Shaman will be Dwarves and Goblins, two of the least popular races. The mana change will be perceived as a nerf, hurting the representation of healers of every class. Totems will remain an annoyance, and you still won't have escape mechanisms, and Enhance will still play like a weaker Ret Paladin. Sorry.

Death Knight: 7.5%

Yeah, you read that right. Biiig cut. Most people will not level their 80 DK as their main in Cata. Paladin popularity will hit this class the worst, but the unexciting new abilities and the loss of freshness won't help either. Expect a good number of Worgen DKs who want an easy way to get a Worgen to 80 early, but few Goblin DKs, as most players will want to roll a Goblin only to see the new starter experience. The appeal of seeing the new 1-60 content will cut into the number of DKs, since they start at 58 (once they get out of their starter zone).

Warlock: 7.5%

Warlocks will see a tiny increase due to their improvements, especially the soul shard system. They will be hurt by the lack of a new pet and what I expect will be a surge in mage popularity.

Priest: 8%

Priest population should stay pretty steady. More than any other class, priests attract a certain type of person, and there is nothing in the preview to suggest they will lose players. Nevertheless, there will be a sizeable drop due to the mana change to healers driving away many players from healing classes. That is the main reason I have them rated so low. The popularity of Druids, especially as Worgen, will also take a bite out of the Priest population.

Rogue: 8.5%

This is also a modest increase for rogues. They will be popular Worgen and Goblin classes, and more popular as raiding mains because of their improved combo point system. They will lose some people who are PvP fans.

Hunter: 9%

I expect a signifiant increase in the hunter population. The biggest factor here is that many of the most popular races can already be hunters, as can both of the new classes, and even humans and undead will be able to hunt in Cata. Also, the improved pet system and the addition of focus will attract more people than it drives away, noticeably increasing the hunter population. I expect them to increase in PvP popularity as well as the focus turns away from Arena and toward BGs.

Mage: 10%

A class with Bloodlust, except it can be played by all of the most popular races, including humans, worgen, and now both kinds of elves? Buy stock in this class, folks.

Warrior: 11%

I originally thought that the boring new abilities in the Warrior class preview would hurt them. And it will hurt them slightly. But no one will notice while rolling their Worgen and Blood Elf warriors and enjoying the fixed rage mechanic, now will they? A perennial popular class will only get more popular.

Druid: 15%

And here we come to the biggest problem. What we've heard about Cataclysm so far has given us no indication that the value of hybrids will decrease. Players as a community are already picking up on this, which explains why the current druid population is so high for a class that can only be played by 2 races and can't see it's own hard-earned armor 90% of the time. As a 3-role hybrid, and the only one that can do both melee and ranged dps, you have a recipe for popularity in a land of dual-specs and little to no downsides to playing a hybrid. GC even hinted that Druids might be the only other class to get Blessing of Kings!

They will also remain the strongest healers once Paladins lose dominance of tank-healing, kitty dps will be easier, bear will be more interesting, and moonkin will finally get a non-spec-breaking version of Eclipse. Plus, the new abilities are pretty cool. Add in that fucking Worgen can be Druids, and iiiit's ovaaaaah for most of the other classes.

Paladin: 17%

The saddest thing about how giant this number is? The fact that it's such a small increase over the current number! The class is getting some great new abilities and almost no clear nerfs. Holy Paladins will become more popular as their toolbox increases and they get raid healing capabilities. Retribution Paladins will pick up a number of refugees from other dps classes, particularly DKs and Warriors, who have been watching them in jealousy for months now. And though there are hints that Prot Paladins will be brought back into line with other tanks, it's hard to dispel the long-running perception of them as the best tanks, the easiest to play, and the ones with the highest and most dependable aoe threat. Plus, they certainly won't be the weakest tanks, and if they are, you can just play dps or healing instead!

The only saving grace here is that Worgen can't play them - though Tuaren will be added to the list, which can only increase their popularity.

Yes, I am predicting that about a third of all players will main either a druid or paladin. Have fun forming raids in 2011, kids!


So what does Blizz need to do between now and Cataclysm to prevent a disasterous healer shortage and gross class imbalance?

1) Change the healing mana "nerf" to make it more palatable.

2) Better PR for the increased importance of mana for healers and the cleanse changes. We need video demonstrations of how the game will be changed to compensate and keep these changes from being nerfs, and we need some social engineering changes in the game mechanics to take some of the responsibility for failure away from healers, at least in the public perception. Perception matters.

3) Increase the "hybrid tax" in some way so that players don't flock to Paladins and Druids for being the only 3-role classes in the game (and top-tier at some of those roles at the same time!). It doesn't need to be limited to the current (failing) damage tax. Change around buffs so that hybrids provide fewer of them, rather than more, compared to pures. Make sure hybrids have the weakest CC, and make it very well-known to the WoW population how much CC will actually matter - with demonstrations. Give some extra utility to pure and 2-role classes that the 3-role classes will lack. Continue to suppress the druid population by keeping them from seeing their gear in bear/cat/moonkin. Stop letting Paladins be so goddamn powerful while being so easy to play.

4) Allow Worgen and Elves to be Shaman, and simplify totems even more.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Speaking of Shadow's Edge

...I got mine more than a month ago, and have been so busy playing with it that I never got around to posting!

I'll never leave you for a one-hander, baby

It was a bigger accomplishment for me than it may have been for other raiders because my guild is a 10-man guild. We actually pug ICC 25 weekly now (and clear through the first wing consistently) but I had to call in some favors with friends in one of the top 25-man guilds on my server to get the two quest items off Festergut and Rotface back before the zone-wide buff was implemented.

The endless, mindless, torturous work of my 3 saronite slaves finally paid off after months of stabbing myself with hot pokers (aka using the random LFD tool to get frost emblems EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR MONTHS ON FOUR CHARACTERS-I'M NOT BITTER OR BURNED OUT AT ALL THANKYOUVERYMUCH). That's only - what - 50,000 gold down the drain for an axe?

The quest itself is quite cool, because you . . .

. . .


. . . oh, was I talking? Oh yeah, so in the questline, you get to watch Mograine forge the axe for you, like so:

The quest items should probably include lube

Awwww yeaahhh...forge it...forge it harder....

Now if you'll excuse me, I just got us 2 hours in a room at the local motel. Just me and the axe.

Death Knight Cataclysm Changes

Why are we seeing so many PvP-only abilities in these class previews? None of them so far moreso than the Death Knights:
New Death Knight Abilities

Outbreak (level 81): Outbreak infects the target with both Frost Fever and Blood Plague at no rune cost. This ability allows death knights to apply diseases quickly when they are switching targets or when their diseases have been dispelled.

Necrotic Strike (level 83): Necrotic Strike is a new attack that deals weapon damage and applies a debuff that absorbs an amount of healing based on the damage done. For context, imagine that the death knight can choose between doing 8,000 damage outright with a certain ability, or dealing 6,000 damage and absorbing 4,000 points in incoming heals with Necrotic Strike -- the burst is smaller, but a larger overall amount of healing would be required to bring the target back to full health.

This ability is meant to bring back some of the old flavor from when death knights could dispel heal-over-time (HoT) effects. It also gives the class a bit more PvP utility without simply replicating a Mortal Strike-style effect.

Dark Simulacrum (level 85): The death knight strikes a target, applying a debuff that allows the death knight to copy the opponent's next spell cast and unleash it. Unlike Spell Reflection, Dark Simulacrum does not cancel the incoming spell. In general, if you can't reflect an ability, you won't be able to copy it either.
Dark Simulacrum will work on nothing in raids. It's purely a PvP ability. Don't DKs already have enough defensive cooldowns in PvP? And ranged attacks? Do they really need a weakened version of Spell Reflect (OK, well it's actually balanced since DKs don't have to switch to a shield).

The same with Necrotic Strike. There will be maybe 1-2 bosses with self-heals over the entire expansion where NS might be worth casting. But really, it's purely for PvP. Sigh.

That leaves Outbreak. Great for both PvP and raids. I love it. Reading it first made me excited about the preview, but I was quickly disappointed as I read the other abilities. Switching targets will no longer be nearly as painful, and Outbreak is especially a boon for tanking, giving us a way to react to situations where we don't have runes available in an emergency. It will also make raiding rotations more interesting, because on single target fights you will likely be replacing IT/PS with Outbreak every 5th cycle. It will definitely raise the skill cap for the class.

The skill cap will also go up from the biggest change to the class: the new rune system.

Right now, DKs must spam their abilities the exact moment a rune comes off cooldown. Every second the rune is off cooldown and unused, that resource is going to waste. This leaves so little room in DK rotations that I often find myself wasting RP because I can't afford to take the time to Death Coil.

In Cataclysm, each of the 3 flavors of rune (blood, frost, and unholy) will recharge one at a time. So, for instance, if you use both blood runes, one of them will refill, then the other will refill (right now they both refill at the same time). The benefit to the change is that the first blood rune isn't going to waste if you don't use it immediately. It doesn't start being wasteful until both of them refill.

This will slow down DK rotations a bit, and all abilities will be adjusted to hit harder to compensate. I'm happy because this fits more with my idea of a DK . . . it always seemed wrong that my specials sometimes did less damage than my white swings.

With the rotation slowing down, and the wiggle-room before runes go to waste increasing massively, the devs get some space to add other abilities to the rotation, make runic power more valuable, and offer rune regen (through haste) and RP regen as useful bonuses. DKs as a class will be much more flexible. The change is great.

If it still doesn't make sense (I found it wicked confusing at first), GC gives a good example to clarify:

"I'll try another comparison. Imagine that all rogue abilities cost 100 energy. They have to wait until they get 100 energy, and then immediately use an attack so that they aren't wasting future energy. That's how DKs play now, except they have 6 runes to watch. Now imagine the same rogue except all his abilities cost 50 energy. If he hits an attack when he has 60 energy, then 50 is consumed but he has 10 energy still left and a head start on the next attack. That's the way we want DKs to play.

If that still doesn't make sense, then focus on what the experience will be, which is that you'll have more breathing room in your rotation and won't have to hit a button every single GCD. If you don't use a strike the second it's available, that's more okay because the extra tank will store extra rune resources rather than just wasting it. You'll still be hitting a lot of buttons though."

As for the talent trees and masteries: they are strong, but uninspiring. I mean, disease damage? I am thankful that Frost will be viable for both 2-handers and Dual-Wield, because I enjoy both playstyles greatly, but haven't been able to try frost lately because I love my Shadow's Edge too much.


Much like the Warrior preview, the DK preview offered a number of "under-the-hood" mechanics changes, but little in the way of "flash" or excitement. Even though the changes are unequivocally good - and point to some great design minds working at Blizzard - I can't help but be disappointed.

Though, it's only fair, as DKs are the newest class, and already had the most pizazz. But with DK numbers declining already as the freshness wears off, I wonder if mechanic changes will be enough to hold people. I anticipate a lot of players will be drawn back to their DKs because the old inflexibility of the rune system turned them off. We'll wait and see as the other previews are released.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Starcraft 2 pricing announced. P.S.: We're screwed.

The physical manifestation of Starcraft 2 was revealed today. You can get the standard edition for $60, or the collector's edition for $100. A bit on the pricey side, but not unexpected.

What is unexpected:
"Digital copies of the game will be available to download through "shortly after release" of the retail Sku."

Join the 21st century, Blizzard. Let us download the game on Day 1.

Wait, I shouldn't be complaining to Blizz. I should be complaining to Activision, since they are clearly in full control now. I'm assuming this decision was made by the marketing and sales departments because there is some advantage to forcing Day 1 buyers into the stores (whether a deal with Gamestop or unwillingness to pay for the bandwidth necessary to handle the demand).

What makes me absolutely sure that Bobby Kotick is at the helm are a few other little surprises in the collector's edition:

1) A WoW pet. Seriously? It makes sense from a marketing standpoint, but damn it's exploitative.

2) "Exclusive downloadable content, including special portraits for your profile, decals to customize your units in-game, and a..."

I cut that statement off because the last part deserves it's own number. Decals to customize units in-game? That just screams value-added content to me. Pay $100 for the base game, then get on the Microtransaction Express and keep shipping your money directly to Blizzard so they can use it on an Orc statue and paying Bobby Kotick and shareholders rather than using it on development! But that pales in comparison to:

3) "...and a visually unique version of the terran Thor unit"



Are you kidding me?!? You're going to be able to pay to make your individual units look different?

Blizzard's motto is very quickly shifting from "when it's ready" to "anything for a buck".

Customer . . . loyalty . . . failing . . .

Everyone who believed the PR saying the Activision merger wouldn't change Blizzard: please accept this bottle of ketchup, which should make it less unpleasant for you to eat your words.

Warrior Class Preview: Boring

As Spinks rightly points out, players will be using the Cataclysm previews and beta to select which class to "main" up to 85. I know I won't be switching from my DK because I couldn't give up the Rusted Proto, but such previews have influenced my choices in the past and clearly have a noticeable effect on the WoW population. Honestly, I'd chalk up the lack of Rogues throughout this entire expansion as about 80% due to how unexciting their new abilities and talents seemed way back in Wrath beta. The other classes were just too shiny. The other 20% is that Paladins, Warriors, and Death Knights were equally strong melee classes that could also tank/heal (and many Rogue players switched to DKs because they were the cool new shiny), drawing Rogue players (including me) away.

Now the low numbers of Warlocks? 90% due to their outlook before Wrath hit, easily.

What each class gets going into the expansion defines what class distributions will be like for at least the following two years.

Once all the previews are here, I'll whip out my infamous Crystal Ball of Totally Dependable Except When I Guess Wrong Predictions and tell you what I expect the class distribution to look like a month after Cata is released. In the meantime, I have to comment directly on the Warrior preview that was released this morning:

How utterly disappointing. Yes, the rage change is perfectly executed, but it's a mechanics change. It's got no "cool" factor. The new abilities aren't exciting. The talent tree changes aren't exciting. Heroic Leap is kind of cool, but it's not enough to carry the entire class.

Based on this preview, I will be shocked if there is not a mass exodus from the warrior class come Cataclysm. There will still be many who love the flavor of the class and enjoy their warrior, of course.

And I'll likely still go forward with my Worgen Warrior plans - Titan's Grip Werewolf, HOOOOOOO!

I don't expect Warriors to die out at all. But I expect the population to cut in half, going from one of the most populous classes to one of the least.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Death Knights get a "Prot" talent tree


Cataclysm class changes are coming thick and fast, and will be relentless through this week. To avoid overshadowing the rest of the DK changes, Ghostcrawler announced today that Death Knights would no longer be able to tank using all of the three talent trees, and would instead be getting a "Protection" talent tree, just like Warriors and Paladins.

This tree would be called "Blood" and the tanking abilities from the other 2 trees would be consolidated therein. This seems to set up Unholy as the 2-handed dps tree and Frost as the dual-wield dps tree.

I'm definitely surprised. We'll have to wait to see how the implementation goes down. With what little information we have, I'm firmly against this. One of the things I enjoyed about my DK was being able to switch specs as I got bored (or based on what type of content I was doing), and the flavor and playstyle of my character would change with it, while still allowing me to tank or dps. For instance, in Ulduar, I basically had to use Blood as my tanking spec because it was helpful on Iron Council and pretty much required on hard-mode Vezax. But lately I've been able to play Frost as my tanking spec because it is great for aoeing down easy heroics while I farm emblems: DnD, glyphed Howling Blast, Blood Boil, take a nap.

From the dps side, the flexibility of DK specs has helped keep my interest as I've been using a different spec at each tier. The transformation of the Frost tree into the DW tree dampened this somewhat, but there were still two distinct options for 2-handed dps. Specs are going to be a lot more limited going forward, and that's a bad thing.

But that's probably the point: balancing DKs has likely been hellish when they essentially have 6-7 talent trees while most other classes have 3, especially when tweaking one DPS tree influences a tanking tree, and vice versa. And they needed a solution to DK masteries, since the new system of investing points in a tree couldn't reasonably yield both DPS and tanking stats.

Honestly, I expected a more ingenious solution to the problem from the Blizzard designers (not that I could think of one). I'm disappointed.

But it's not the end of the world! I'll still enjoy my DK, and who knows what other changes they have in store. We'll find out tomorrow. Being the most recently-designed class, I'm expecting the new DK talent trees to be the most similar to their current incarnations compared to the older classes. But I'm very excited to see the promised revamp of the rune system to make it more flexible. Tanking can get frustrating as a DK when you really need some runes to react to an emergency and they just aren't available, and DPS has become all about optimizing rune usage, making DK dps a lot like Paladin DPS (where you are locked down by Global CoolDown limitations), except we also have to keep track of resources while Paladins just have to hit the right attack as soon as the GCD is up (not a dig at Paladins!).

It should be an exciting week for WoW players.

Rohan is Righteous

I wholeheartedly endorse this post by Rohan at Blessing of Kings about how raiding tiers could be set up. God I hope Blizzard goes that way.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How I would fix Warriors

Warriors in World of Warcraft have been a broken class ever since the initial Wrath patch made the Paladins the most-well designed and overpowered overall class in the game and made Death Knights into everything Warriors should have been, plus more.

DKs have a variety of defensive cooldowns and self-heals at their beck and call at all times, even while in full DPS mode. Meanwhile, Warriors must switch to a shield just to use spell reflect or shield wall. Paladin tanks dominate on dps, aoe threat, and survivability, while Warrior tanks lag behind. Ret Paladins bring more buffs to the raid than any other class while easily doing competitive dps at any gear level and being able to heal themselves and use defensive cooldowns with impunity.

Meanwhile, Warriors have to give up a chunk of their dps just to use a meager self-HoT.

Rage's implementation was also a weakness of the class. They were rage-starved at low gear levels, but had infinite rage past a certain threshold. This not only led to an awkward gearing point where dps suddenly shot up now that rage was available, but it also made the class completely impossible to balance. It also meant that, for geared Warriors, Heroic Strike was no longer a choice: you might as well just macro it into your attacks.

Oh, yeah, and dps warriors don't have a threat reduction like every single other dps spec. So they will always be the first person to pull aggro. Fun.

So it's clear Cataclysm will need to make some major changes to the Warrior class. I was prompted to write this post today because Blizzard made an announcement about the subject that was pretty much word-for-word what I was planning to say about rage. I better get my other ideas out there so y'all know I thought of them first!

Blue sez:

1) Rage is no longer generated based on damage done by auto-attacks. Instead, each auto-attack provides a set amount of Rage, and off-hand weapons will generate 50% of the Rage main hands do. This amount is based on a constant formula which factors in the base swing speed of the weapon. This means the Rage gained should be averaged out between fast and slow weapons. The constant formula also gives us the ability to easily increase the rage gained if it feels too low (or reduce it if is too high). We are also implementing the following mechanics, which will still allow rage to improve to some extent as you improve gear:

  • If the attack is a critical strike, it will generate 200% Rage.
  • Haste will accelerate swing times to generate Rage faster.

2) Rage from damage taken will no longer be based on a standard creature of the character's level, but instead will based on the health of the warrior or druid. Again, there is a constant that is multiplied by the rage generated in order to allow for fine-tuning. This calculation ignores all damage reduction from armor, absorption, avoidance, block, or similar mechanics, so improving your gear will not reduce Rage gained.

3) We will provide warriors and druids with more instant sources of rage. For example, the warrior shouts are changing to work more like the death knight ability Horn of Winter. Instead of Battle Shout consuming Rage, it will generate Rage but have a short cooldown. Both classes will have additional methods to generate Rage in an emergency or bleed off Rage when they have too much.

4) All "on next swing" attacks in Cataclysm are being removed. Heroic Strike and Maul will be instant swings that cost a variable amount of Rage. For example, imagine Heroic Strike costs between 10 and 30 Rage. You must have at least 10 Rage to use the attack, but it will consume all available Rage up to a maximum of 30. Any Rage consumed above the minimum will cause the ability to hit harder, and in some cases much harder. We will tune the ability so that it's generally not a good idea to hit it when you have low Rage (unless everything else is somehow on cooldown) but becomes a more attractive button the higher your Rage.

All great ideas. That I thought of first. It's nice to see Warriors finally get at least brought on par with DKs in #3, as well.

So that pretty much 100% fixes rage. But I would tweak it a bit more as part of revamping the talent trees. My main goals would be to give each tree a unique flavor, bring warriors into line with DKs and Rets in independent survivability, and solidify charge/intercept as the defining warrior "move". I like the steps Blizzard took in this direction in LK, and would keep the current "arms in battle stance using rend and overpower" vs. "fury in berserker stance using whirlwind and Slam" dichotomy.

First off, Enraged Regeneration (heal over time) should no longer remove an enrage effect and should have a shorter cooldown. Battle and Berserker stance would both come with an innate threat reduction, as well.

Furthermore, each talent tree will get a unique rage-building mechanic, defensive cooldown, and signature "charge". Here are some examples of how I would handle the revamp of each tree.


Unleashed Rage - increases rage generated on weapon hits by XX% (25%?)
Spell Parry - allows the use of Spell Reflect without a shield equipped
Juggernaut - same as now: allows use of Charge during combat
Improved Disarm - Disarm lasts longer, reduces the target's spellpower and leaves a DoT on them

The overall tree will emphasize precision strikes. Talents will grant hit and expertise, and the masteries will raise armor penetration and crit.

You can see that the Arms Warrior will focus on getting hits, in contrast to:


Wild Swings - Gain rage as though you had landed a hit whenever your attacks are parried, dodged, or miss.
Weapon Wall - Allows the use of Shield Wall without a shield equipped
Interceptor - Reduces the rage cost and cooldown of Intercept. Allows it to be used for free if you are out of combat.
Improved Intimidating Shout - Reduces the cooldown of the shout, and roots the primary target in place with terror

The overall tree will emphasize wild, enraged -but imprecise - assault. Talents and masteries will increase strength and haste. The Wild Swings talent means that the Fury Warrior can focus more on increasing his haste and strength without worrying as much about hit and expertise caps. He may swing wild, but he swings fast and hard.

Front Line - attacks against you generate XX% more rage (25%?)
Last Stand will remain, and Improved Spell Reflect will be changed - if a spell cannot be reflected, the damage it does while your Spell Reflect is active will be reduced by 35%
Warbringer - same as it is now, essentially allowing prot warriors to charge during combat without switching stances

This tree is already pretty strong so I wouldn't change too much, especially if Paladins get the promised aoe threat nerf. With rage generation fixed, the only thing still needed is cleanup of the dps trees to differentiate them from each other and give them some way to help healers keep them alive.

So that's a sampling of how I'd change Warriors for Cataclysm. They definitely need some major work - more than any other class, imo - and the announced rage changes are a welcome start.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Some PAX East pix

I'm Still Alive! Recovering from PAX East, a case of PAX pox, and catching up from my time off at work has not been conducive to blogging. While I sit down to drink and eat to recharge my "writing" bar, here's some pics from the Show of Shows:

Wil Wheaton Keynote

The line for said Keynote

Varian Wrynn and Jaina Proudmoore cosplay (filthy alliance!)

APB booth in the expo hall - I got to play it, post coming later!

Kotaku & Croal panel about deciding the best 10 videogames ever. Entertaining.

My view from the front of the line for Gabe & Tycho's book signing

I had SUCH a great time at PAX. Many more posts and pictures to come.