Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Excited for a Moment There

MMO-Champion has posted information about an as-of-yet unreleased beta build that has tons of new guild achievements. Upon first reading I missed the fact that these were guild achievements, and I thought that they were adding an achievement not only for looting 50k gold but also for looting 200k gold. Now those are 10 points I would have had to work for.

Similarly, raising 55 reputations to exalted would be quite the feat for an individual. I suppose this one is even a decent feat for a guild, though currently I think my guild sits at around 52 different exalted reputations, so the new reputations in the expansion should let us hit this without even trying.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Don't Fight on the Road

I started working on my League of Arathor reputation again, which is a very big grind. If you had a 50/50 split between controlling 2 and 3 bases it would take about 84 hours of continuously sitting in Arathi Basin to get to exalted, and of course in reality there is the 1 minute cap time, the 2 minute start time and the time between games to contend with.

I don't actually mind the old school insane rep grinds. Since these reputations basically give you nothing, the only reason to get them is for show. There is no need to devalue them by reducing the amount of work it takes.

But working on that reputation has meant exposing myself to battleground chat in Arathi Basin. There are so many terrible things about what people say to one another in battlegrounds, but most of it is the same whatever battleground you are in. Arathi Basin has a special stupid thing that people say, "Don't fight on the road!"

If you are losing, someone will yell this almost every time. The basic logic of it is quite astounding. In Arathi Basin both teams have the same objective. Furthermore, you can't have a fight without members of both teams. If I am fighting on the road, it means someone from their team is fighting on the road. If it is bad to fight on the road then it is, on average, equally bad for both teams when a fight on the road occurs. Since bad for your opponent is exactly the same as good for you, fighting on the road can't be bad on its face.

Of course a lot of the time people engage in fighting poorly, they wander away from the flag and allow it to be captured when they easily had enough people to repel the attack, and otherwise get caught in bad positions. Unfortunately the mantra of "don't do bad things, do good things instead" doesn't convey a lot of meaning. "Don't fight on the road," by comparison, conveys meaning. It just conveys a bad meaning that could easily lead people to make bad decisions if they take it to heart.

Perhaps as someone just learning the battleground without a good sense of the strategy it is worthwhile to keep in mind that you always want to be next to a flag so you can either capture if if given the opportunity or stop someone else from capturing it. But diverting and delaying your opponents are extremely useful tactics that usually involve disobeying the rule.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Push Nourish

As far as the history goes here, we thought at the time (and still think!) that the Resto druid wasn't going to be well served as a "I only care about hots and nothing else" healer. It's just too extreme a design. Any time when hots are good (by which I mean both individual encounters and periods in the game as a whole) the druid is going to dominate. Any time when hots are terrible, so will be druids. We probably, in retrospect, didn't push Nourish enough, because we still ended up in a raid healing situation where druids used Rejuv and Wild Growth and were loathe to use any other button.

I know there are a few topics that I go on and on about, and that I jump on every time they appear, but this really gets to me. The problem was most certainly not that they didn't push Nourish enough. The problem is that Wild Growth and Rejuvenation are too powerful, not that Nourish is too weak. Sure, if you'd made Nourish as good as Holy Light then druids might have cast it more, but how would that be a solution?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Typhoon Struggle

Since a couple of days ago I wrote a post about many of the problems that came with the first expansion of 10-player raiding and trouble Blizzard had properly balancing encounters, especially the heroic version of Lich King, I can now say that I am happy to see that the encounter has finally been beaten by a 10-player strict guild.

I'd been ruminating on my distaste for the way that the 10-player heroic Lich King encounter was balanced for quite some time. After finally getting it out there, however, I think I was able to see more clearly over the past couple of days why 10-player strict guilds hadn't been able to take it down.

Top end 25-player guilds raid 40+ hours a week. They had more practice against heroic Lich King when they took him down at 10% or 15% than my guild has against 10-player heroic Lich King to date. They earned their kills through literally hundreds of hours of practice. We might be near or just over the 100-hour mark for Lich King.

Almost everyone who plays this game wants the game to be balanced so that things are a challenge for them but that they can ultimately take it down. Encounters, however, have to be balanced to a set of numbers, which means there will be those who don't find them challenging and those who will never win. Blizzard made a very accessible final boss for the expansion in normal difficulty Lich King. He's no push-over, especially not for a non-heroic boss, but a lot of guilds have been able to beat him and see the final cinematic, and presumably more will follow. They decided that for heroic Lich King they would put in a fight that no one in the world would say was too easy, and they did it.

I just want to be clear that for all the problems of 10 player raiding in this expansion, and there were many of them, if I can't beat this fight, whether because I'm not willing to put the hours in to do it properly or because I'm just plain not good enough, that's not anyone's fault but mine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Last Throes of Limited Attempts

Well, we know that limited attempts for bosses is going away and it considered to be a failed experiment in a kind of nanny state to keep the most hardcore players from playing too much. I was very happy about this when I read it and largely decided I could put my hatred of limited attempts behind me.

But limited attempts are taking their final revenge on my guild. Instead of simply saving our instance from week to week in order to keep working on heroic Lich King, we have to clear out the tired bosses we've already killed dozens of times just to reset that counter. So even now I am going to spend about 30% of my raiding time each week just dealing with the limited attempts mechanic. I know it's going away soon, but not soon enough.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10-man Heroic

We've been at a 30% buff for a while now and still no guilds have killed heroic Lich King on 10-player without having 25-player gear. It's not time to throw in the towel yet, but at this point I feel like I can say that 10-player raids in Wrath were a great but failed attempt at providing an alternative for players who prefer the smaller raid size.

There is a good chance that Blizzard developers actually agree with a great deal of the criticisms I have to 10-player raiding in Wrath. They are, after all, significantly changing the paradigm for Cataclysm to eliminate the gear gap and prevent people from running raids of both sizes every week.

It has been fairly clear from the beginning that designers were designing 25-player bosses, and then just nerfing some numbers to get the 10-player version. Sartharion plus three drakes was our early proof of this. With the limited staff available to handle the multiple drakes at the same time, the 10-player version was widely recognized as being harder, person for person and gear for gear than the 25-player version. Were it not for the viability of rushes, that would still remain a fight that a relatively small number of players had beaten even with today's gear. In order to beat that fight we were forced to gear up in 25-player content. To my knowledge no one ever won in 10-player gear.

In Ulduar encounter design got better, but the 10-player version of encounters had several glaring problems. Often the solution to a 10-player predicament was to remove a troublesome mechanic altogether. Impacts of other mechanics on groups of different sizes, such as the mind control ability of Guardians of Yogg-Saron weren't even considered.

Ulduar was still a masterpiece, and it was great that they reduced the gap between 10-player and 25-player gear, but ToC brought that gap back. Moreover, the ToC trinkets were itemized so differently that the 25-player versions were great and the 10-player versions were universally terrible. While 25-player players were using on 245 and one 258 trinket, most 10-player players were using one 219 and one 200 trinket, because even the 245 10-player trinket wasn't worth equipping.

The trinket problems continued into ICC. With only one new trinket for each type, and those trinkets being unique between the heroic and non-heroic version, 10-player raiders got to upgrade only one trinket slot, while 25-player raiders got to upgrade both, often with very substantial upgrades. 25-player raiders also got Shadowmourne and are still benefiting from Val'anyr. 10-player raiders, on the other hand, can find noticeable holes in the gear offered to them, such as (at least at the time of release) there being no wand without hit in ICC. In ToC 10-player raiders could only upgrade their 219 cloaks (or 226 cloaks from 25-player Kel'Thuzad who we needed to kill to beat Sarth +3) completing a successful tribute run. No other cloaks were in the dungeon at all.

All the while 10-player guilds have to contend with a great deal of difficulty in recruiting because of the perception (and frankly, the reality) that they are second class raiding guilds. Attempts to recruit the best players were hamstrung from the beginning because most players would rather play at the difficulty level that gives the best loot. With 25-player normal giving the same loot at 10-player heroic, which is comparatively very hard, there is little incentive to join a guild dedicated to 10-player raiding.

25-player guilds got to trivialize 10-player content by overgearing it and having lots of extra practice at it. The limited attempts system ensured that they would take that time practicing as well. Probably more importantly, a 25-player guild attempting to get 10-player kills can bring in extreme raid compositions that are ideal for the encounter. 10-player guilds may only have one member of any given class, or none at all. 25-player guilds will almost always have two of each class and often three. If one class shines on a particular encounter, they will always be able to bring them. Imagine the poor 10-player guild who makes it all the way to heroic LK without a priest and then finds themselves at a desperate disadvantage due to having no shields for Infest.

All of this, however, brings me back to the Lich King. I don't know whether my guild will beat him or not. It may be we just need a hundred or two more attempts to get the fight down, but it may be that we are simply not up to the challenge. I don't doubt that this is our fault; there are probably many different groups of 10 people in the world who could beat the lich king on heroic with our characters. But none of them actually play 10-player exclusively. 10-player heroic Lich King has been, up to this point, nothing but a source of higher level weapons for guilds working on 25-player Lich King. The next few months will determine whether he ever becomes anything more than that.

Part of it is that I'm just disappointed that we haven't been able to win. Part of it is that I wish I was better at playing and I could stop making mistakes that are costing us attempts. But there is definitely a part of me that feels like being 14th in the world should mean we are good enough to take things down, and at the very least 1st in the world should.

Ultimately, for 10-player raiders, the final boss of the expansion was balanced to be out of reach. He is not out of reach for a theoretical raid, but he is out of reach for the people who are actually playing the game. I hope that someone can prove me wrong before 4.0 hits or he is nerfed (and I would love it if that someone is me) but at this point I would probably be willing to put even money against it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm Still Going On About Titan's Grip

We really haven't ever supported the true hybrid builds where someone goes halfway down two trees. It would be one thing if someone really wanted to play say an Affliction warlock who also emphasized demons or the Ret paladin who also wanted to be a better healer. But almost without exception the hybrid builds that have ever existed involved sneaking down into a second tree to get an overpowered talent or two. The developers never really wanted the last talent in a tree to be a decision. They want you to get that talent. When players would make builds that didn't go to the bottom of their tree they would feel like something was wrong with the tree. Nobody wants that 31-point talent to be a hard choice.

So, yeah, go get that 31-point talent. You'll have some decisions to make on the way down and then you'll have 10 points that can get you 3 or 4 additional talents from a pool of 15 or so that are left over. Not all of those builds will make sense, but many of them will. That feels like plenty of choice to me and both you and we will know that you have the basics that make your spec work.

Any chance of someone mentioning this to the guy who is working on the Fury tree?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Rating Changes

We are taking a look at the ratings decay as you gain levels. Now that the talent trees have lost so much crit, haste and hit, they may be too steep.

That is a quotation from a response to a question about rage generation. The rest of the response is about using rage generating abilities and such and really isn't what I am interested in here. What I am interested in is how the decision about how much rating you need to get 1% crit, hit, or haste is made.

I think we knew this already, but its a little distressing to see it spelled out like this. Apparently they decide things in this order: 1. figure out how big the numbers are going to be on gear; 2. decide how large they want people's crit and haste percentages to be; 3. choose rating conversions that give the desired crit and haste values from the number of rating points people will have.

Absent in that process, is the step where they consider whether crit and haste ratings are good enough to even both putting them on gear. The problem is that if you know how big the numbers on gear will be and you know how much crit you want people to have in the final tier of gear then it is a straight calculation to figure out how many rating points it takes to get 1% crit, there is no room for the value of the rating to come in.

As I've pointed out before, the current rating conversion numbers are going to make it pretty much impossible for crit or haste rating to be useful at all. With an imagined scenario using Arcane Blast I came up with a valuation that put crit at 20% of spell power. But lets look at a more realistic scenario.

From my estimates, a level 80 mage in first tier Cataclysm raid gear should have about 6421 spell power (nearly 1600 less than the Priest because of Inner Fire). A level 85 fireball does 671 to 855 damage, or an average of 763 damage. Now I'm not sure that spell coefficients will actually resemble what they are now in many cases, but fireball isn't a bad bet to still work on the cast time divided by 3.5 model. Since the new fireball is a 2.5 second cast, that would mean that the fireball would do around 5702 damage, about 86.6% of which comes from spell power. It will actually be higher from mastery and talents, but anything that multiplies the entire damage of the spell affects damage from spell power and crit equally, so we can ignore it.

The mage will also have about 5,099 points in ratings. It will take 2611 rating to be hit capped, so presumably the mage will be devoting as much rating to hit as possible. Being a fire mage with big fire mage crits we'll assume that crit is supposed to be an attractive stat. So lets hit cap the mage (a little unrealistic, but that's okay) and split the difference 2:1:2 between crit, haste and mastery. That gives 995 crit rating which is 3.71% crit. Assume a base crit near 5% and a 5% extra spell crit debuff on the enemy. That brings us up to 13.71%. Since the mage crits for 2.1 times normal damage (as far as we know at this point, but this could be as high as 2.8 given current information I have available) the average damage of fireball with crit is around 6561.

So what happens if we gain 100 spell power vs. 100 crit rating. 100 spell power would increase the damage of our fireball by 82.2. 100 crit rating would increase our crit chance by .37% or about 23.4 damage. That puts critical strike rating at about 28.4% of spell power for damage for a fire mage. This is not the vision of bringing stats closer together that they spoke of.

Reevaluating ratings to achieve some goal for critical strike chance might improve this situation a lot. Ratings will increase about 63% over the course of the expansion, but if you stay hit capped then that means a much more than 63% increase to critical strike rating. If we end up with 8311 rating, devote the same 2611 rating to getting hit capped and divide in the same ratio then we end up with 2280 rating, more than double the first tier amount, for a total of 8.51% crit from rating, giving 18.51% crit total. Also spell power increases to 9767.

100 more spell power gives 85.9 more damage with these stats, while 100 crit rating gives 28.9 damage. At top tier crit catch up a bit to be worth 33.6% of a spell power. If they decide that mages critting roughly 30% of the time is a good amount, they could drop the rating required for 1% crit to 114, less than half its current value. Then crit would be worth nearly 79% of a spell power to a fire mage. Not bad, really. If spells in general go to 100% bonus crit damage instead of 50%, crit could actually surpass spell power for fire mages in end of expansion contant.

Which is a pretty nice thing to luck into for the developers, but from the process that used to make the decisions about how much rating it takes to get 1% crit, haste or hit, we know that it is just luck if the numbers end up being close together. Rating values should be set to make stats balanced against one another, because stats that are close in value are the right thing for the game. If doing this would end up meaning that players will end up with 150% crit, and it might, depending on how you set the values, then there are other knobs you can turn to fix that problem, such as increasing the base damage of spells, giving more innate attack power based on level, or just having players' base stats account for more of their damage than they do. In classic your base stats from your race, class and level might have accounted for a third of your total stat value. In wrath they aren't even a tenth.

The desired relative value of stats should determine the rating conversions. Something so arbitrary as rating conversions should not determine the relative value of stats. It looks like, for at least some classes, we might end up with reasonably balanced stats after all. Ultimately, though, I wouldn't expect non-red gems to auction for much over their vendor value.