Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Berserk Timers

Berserk timers are now as brutally overused as untauntability was in Burning Crusade. There are virtually no bosses in Wrath that do not have a berserk timer. Berserk timers are an awkward kludge, and ideally the game shouldn't have them at all.

What's wrong with berserk timers?

First of all, they are "immersion breaking." No matter how much you play the game as a game I think this matters. Boss abilities fit a theme of the boss and demonstrate the power of the creature you are fighting. Calling meteors from the sky, freezing us in ice, summoning minions and good old fashioned breathing fire are all things that powerful creatures do. Suddenly becoming unbeatable if you fight them for exactly six minutes, on the other hand, is really out of the blue.

Second, berserk timers are often put in just for the sake of it. My guild tried to take on 25-player Beasts of Northrend with 14 people, both for gear and to see if we could do it. After a couple hours of trying we finally managed to get to the end of the fight and lost to the 15-minute berserk timer. It is far from clear what purpose that timer is serving other than to stop us from having fun. Fighting 25-player encounters with 14 people is generally not the best way to get loot. Similarly, a Death Knight managed to solo Sartharion, and the greatest difficulty to overcome was that he only had 15 minutes to do it. Sartherion's berserk timer didn't stop us from beating him with 4 people in appropriate gear, so it is serving no purpose but to limit the fun of people doing strange things.

Third, when berserk timers are actually setting the difficulty of the fight, they limit the raid's ability to play through mistakes. This is especially true in 10-player raids. If a fight requires 2 tanks and 3 healers, then losing 1 dps means losing 15-20% of your damage. If the berserk timer is the limiter that is making the fight challenging, then this is an unrecoverable loss, and the moment someone dies you might as well just wipe and start over. Even if someone dies 75% of the way through the fight, if you were only on pace to make the berserk timer by a few seconds, this can be an unrecoverable position. Playing through mistakes and making the best of bad situations is something the game should encourage, not discourage.

Once upon a time, Berserk timers were a good solution to a problem. The problem was that if you brought a tank and 39 healers to an encounter, then you would win for sure1. A time limit on how long you have to win gives dps a place in competitive content. Without them, you eventually die.

Berserk timers do solve that problem, but there are lots of other ways to solve that problem, and very few modern bosses need berserk timers to make dps matter. If the boss summons adds then either you need enough dps to kill the adds before the next ones come, or you need enough dps to kill the boss before there are too many adds to tank. Stacking buffs or debuffs that make the boss more and more dangerous as the fight goes on serve the same purpose as enrage timers, but don't break immersion, and give a little more leeway to play exceptionally and scrape some extra seconds out if you need them. Rotface summons oozes faster and faster as the fight goes on. On Blood Queen you will eventually run out of bite targets and get mind controlled. Heroic Northrend Beasts releases extra bosses on a timer. Heroic Anub'arak only gives you six frost patches to work with, so the third burrow is basically automatically fatal.

I'd like to see them do away with enrage timers entirely. It's totally fine for Firefighter - after all, we hit the big red button - and maybe for certain other circumstances where there is an in game reason that the fight would be a limited time only. But making bosses do 500% more damage after a certain number of minutes is a crutch for encounter designers, is an awkward kludge solution to an old problem, makes no sense within the game world, and rarely makes the game better.

1. I realize this is a bit of an overstatement, many fights would have required more than one tank, and beating fights with nothing but tanks and healers would have taken forever. There was a real concern, though, that encounters could be trivialized by overloading on healers.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I've done the Zul'Gurub quests, and I want my raid back.

First of all, the quests that involve Zul'Gurub would have worked just as well in an instance as they did on the world map. You never walk in through the front door, you get teleported in and do strange little tasks.

Second, they took maybe 10 minutes in total, all of them put together.

I can't entirely rule out the possibility that we will be sent back there at higher level, but if you are so far Wowhead knows nothing about it.

I realize that no one even set foot in Zul'Gurub aside from a few dedicated mount collectors, but what they put in to justify removing it doesn't have a whole lot of value either. My position is clear skewed by the fact that I was one of those people farming for a mount, but comparing what was given up to what was put in its place - and the development lost plus the development that was put into the new stuff - it seems like a bad trade.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too Hard and Too Easy

One of the problems with PUG raids is that raid content is generally accepted to be too easy but in reality much of it is too hard for new and casual players. Some time ago, Ardol at World of Warcraft Philosophized posted about why the leveling process doesn't prepare you for raiding. He makes some good points about the differences between solo and group play that contribute to why people manage to be profoundly bad at raiding with their class despite having to go through the leveling process just like everyone else.

Much more importantly to the issue of PUG raiding is that the leveling process, in its current form, doesn't give you the most important skill in raiding: dying, running back, asking yourself what you can do differently next time, and trying again.

In raiding, you have to be ready and willing to lose and to learn from your mistakes. Without this, you really don't have any opportunity to improve your play. But when raids break up after a single wipe, you never have an opportunity to get better even if you are ready and willing to analyze your play and practice.

When a fight isn't explained and a wipe results in everyone just giving up instead of discussing what went wrong, a newcomer to the fight won't even know why they wiped or whether anything could have been done to avoid it. Sometimes to an experienced raider the causes of wipes can be pretty obvious even on a fight they've never seen before. For a new raider, however, how do they know the difference between - to use Toravon as an example - the raid losing because too many people stood too close to a pair of frozen orbs and the healers weren't on the ball; versus the raid wiping because the fight went too long and he got off a lethal white out? Their experience of either will be similar: everything was going fine until suddenly it wasn't and nearly everyone died.

The problem this creates is that not only does leveling not teach you how to raid, raiding doesn't always teach you how to raid. Unless you are raiding with a group of people who actually share their experiences and who are willing to try again, you are just spinning the wheel every time and hoping you come out a winner.

Dying in WoW is of little consequence. Usually it won't waste more than 10 minutes of your time. Using 10 minutes to die is a great use of time if you actually manage to learn something from it.

People often say that WoW has become too easy, but I want to be totally clear about something: WoW is shockingly hard, but the number of things to do in WoW that are actually really that hard are fairly limited. Firefighter, Yogg +0 and heroic Lich King are all very hard. Algalon, heroic Anub'arak, and heroic Sindragosa were pretty challenging as well - even if the former two seemed harder than they really were thanks to limited attempt mechanisms.

But there is a distinct lack of build-up to the encounters of that difficulty. There are parts of the game that don't seem that tough and then the difficulty curve suddenly gets very steep. PUG raids usually want to take on content up to the point where the difficulty ratchets up, but don't want to try to go further because they can't reasonably expect a PUG will win. Because they only take on the content that is "easy" they expect they should win without a great deal of difficulty. This adds to the frustration of losing, increases the chances the group breaks up after a small number of wipes, and reduces the learning opportunities for PUG raiders.

Reversing this trend means having to start early. Players should get used to the idea of dying and trying again before level 10, and should be reminded that that is part of the game as they go through the leveling process. In his inaugural developer blog post, Ghostcrawler points out that the fun of playing on God Mode wears off pretty quickly. That philosophy needs to be applied consistently through the game, not just to heroic raid encounters. The player base should expect that they will need to try more than once to accomplish important things, and they should get used to feeling that good feeling you get when you succeed after failing, learning and practicing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Leader's Responsibility

Wipe aversion is actually very understandable in PUGs. One of the key differences between a PUG raid and a guild raid is that a guild raid is actually pretty certain that they are going to win. Maybe they won't win tonight, or even this month, but raiding guilds don't let that dampen their enthusiasm. When the members of a guild lose faith that they will ever beat an encounter the guild often starts to fall apart. A single boss can not only wipe raids, but it can outright destroy guilds, if it is capable of making people feel that no matter how hard they try and no matter how much they practice they will never win.

In a PUG, winning is far from inevitable. You really might just plain lose and walk away with nothing. It's a potentially disheartening affair, and at some point continuing to fight the boss is throwing good money after bad. If you no longer think the raid is going to succeed, then you should bail and do something more productive with your time.

Much worse than this from a raid cohesion perspective is that once one person leaves, the threshold for another person to leave plummets drastically. After all, the first person has to be unwilling to sit through one more attempt. The second person has to be unwilling to sit through the time it takes to replace the first person plus the time for another attempt, and so on. One person leaving - especially from a 10-player raid - can be enough to set off a cascade.

Obviously no one in a raid wants this to be the outcome, but people running the raids have an additional investment. The majority of people, even people who seem like jerks most of the time, actually have an internal sense that when they start something and it fails, they deserve the blame. That feeling of shame and blame may be warring with other feelings - such as rage against the group's lousy dps - but people mostly don't like to fail and as a raid leader you can't really leave the blame with other people. If the group failed, it's because you put together a bad group.

Unless, that is, you put together the group based on an objective measure that is supposed to tell you whether people are capable of succeeding or not. If you go into 10-player ICC with a group wearing ilvl 264 gear, then you "should" win. If the group can't beat Saurfang and degenerates into name calling then it is pretty easy to say to yourself that the members of the group must have just been bad players.

Because the tool is objective1 the raid leader doesn't have to shoulder the blame for its outcome. The tool really becomes the raid leader; and given that PUG raid leaders rarely explain fights, go over what happened when there is a wipe, give motivational speeches, or talk to individual raid members about how to improve their play, the tool might as well be the raid leader for all other purposes as well.

None of this is to say that PUG raid leaders are wusses or to put the blame for anything on their shoulders. Very few people decide lead PUG raids precisely because being a leader carries with it a burden. Moreover, people who are really great raid leaders are mostly raid leaders in guilds. The skills it takes to be a great raid leader aren't really that different than the skills it takes to be a great leader of people in general. Those skills are not common.

Blizzard thinks that implementing an Raid Finder system similar to the Dungeon Finder system is a problematic idea for a lot of good reasons. GearScore, however, serves as a makeshift Raid Finder that players have created themselves. Using an objective entrance criterion that should theoretically be tied to the group's chance of success takes the raid leader and their responsibility out of the equation.

In an environment where a single wipe can lead to a complete failure, you'll get very few volunteers to shoulder the responsibility for the success of the raid. The number of PUG raid leaders who want to use GearScore to determine raid inclusion is just a consequence of that fact.

1. It isn't really that objective because you have to decide what GearScore you are using as a minimum. My feeling is that most raid leaders choose values that are well above what is really needed to do the dungeons and rely on overgearing rather than appropriate gearing to beat content. Of course they do this for the same reason they use GearScore in the first place - to try to minimize wipes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reframing the Argument

The fastest way for a discussion to degenerate into uselessness is for each side to convince themselves that the disagreement stems from the other side being stupid. If you assume that you understand someone else's point of view, and that the disagreement is occurring only because they do not understand your, clearly superior, point of view, then you aren't going to get very far1.

Of course, one of the challenges is that people rarely actually articulate the reasons why they are doing something, and often aren't completely aware of the reasons themselves. People rationalize and then argue against the words used to express the other party's rationalizations. It's some pretty fantastically unproductive stuff. It certainly doesn't get any easier when one side never even presents a point of view at all.

People who start raids in trade chat requesting that everyone who comes have a certain GearScore rarely get drawn into the debate about whether GearScore is a useful tool or not. Other people have that debate for them. The arguments against are generally that skill is far more important than gear. The arguments for are generally that since there is no readily available way to measure skill, gear is the best we can do2.

But those arguments actually don't have much to do with the problem or with either side's motivation. Whether or not GearScore is objectively a useful tool for forming successful raids doesn't make a huge difference. The group that doesn't like GearScore doesn't like what relying on GearScore does to the game and to the community. The group that uses GearScore doesn't think that the GearScore haters understand the reality of forming PUG raids.

I completely agree with the GearScore haters and the majority of the WoW blogging community who say that using GearScore to form raids have a negative impact on the game. For me, though, this has nothing to do with the fact that GearScore can't measure skill, and it has a lot more to do with the fact that GearScore can't measure willingness to learn, ability to take direction, social skills, dedication, and any of the other traits that would make someone who has neither gear nor experience a good addition to a raid. The problem with GearScore isn't that it shuts out people who somehow deserve to be on raids, it's that it shuts out people who just want a chance to play and learn.

It's also worth noting that GearScore can't measure whether or not you are just a complete asshole. When it serves as the only entrance criterion it basically gives people a pass on destructive behaviours and attitudes.

For a trade chat raid leader, though, giving people a chance doesn't seem like a viable option. The reality of PUG raids is very harsh. We all know that a PUG raid can break up after a single wipe at worst, and that for something like Vault of Archavon the lifespan of the raid is half an hour to forty-five minutes maximum even if people are willing to stick it out and try again. A leader under these circumstances doesn't feel like they have any room to give new people a chance.

It's also very questionable whether giving new people a chance is very beneficial in this kind of scenario. No one explains the encounter before it begins. There is no discussion of what went wrong if things do go wrong. The closest thing you are likely to get to constructive advice is being called a "n00b."

The functioning of PUG raids in the current environment seems antithetical to the idea of giving new people a chance to play, to learn and to prove themselves. Despite the attention that GearScore gets, then, it is only a symptom, not the cause, of the problem. The real problem is one that people on both sides of the debate are caught in.

While ultimately if we can solve this problem GearScore may lose its place as a tool of choice for selecting raid membership. But banning or breaking the addon doesn't do anything to the underlying problem that PUG raids are the most obvious avenue for new and casual players to experience raiding and are simultaneously the worst possible environmental for new and casual players to experience raiding.

1. Unless you are in a situation that are are capable of outright winning. When the entire problem has to do with opinions and social interactions it is very rare that this is an option.

2. Of course the arguments are often a lot closer to, "You asshole, you are ruining not only WoW, but life as well!" versus "Noob!" with one side or the other quickly resorting to, "You are a virgin who lives in your mom's basement." This is trade chat afterall.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Can't Tank

Come on, make Discipline a tanking spec. What have we got to lose?

Friday, November 12, 2010


If you read WoW blogs, or trade chat, it will have been impossible for you to avoid noticing that there are a lot of people out there who really, really don't like GearScore. It was only in the last month or so, when I read a post on the Pink Pigtail Inn that I really got to thinking about why GearScore had become a problem for the community.

So when I saw people complaining that GearScore was meaningless and that "Skill > Gear" I tended to side with the GearScore users. This was a visceral reaction to bad logic. Just because skill is more important that gear doesn't mean that gear doesn't do anything. Since some random guy starting a raid in trade chat has no idea whether some other random guy looking for a raid in trade chat is any good at all at playing the game, there is really no point in comparing the two. Both of the following things can be true at once:

I'd rather have a player in 251s than a player in 232s
I'd rather have a skilled player in 232s than a bad player in 251s

And for all of those "Skill > Gear" people, I would also rather have a bad player in 251s then a skilled player in 187 greens. Skill can't make up that deficit - for reasonable values of bad, at least.

What I was ignoring for a long time is that it's really not my problem. When I raid, I raid with my guild. If I for some reason want to do a PUG raid and they want me to have a certain GearScore to qualify, I have it. More generally, if they want me to have a certain achievement, or meet some other qualification then I have whatever they are looking for. No one has turned me down for a raid and I have little reason to think anyone ever will.

The fact that is isn't my problem, though, suggests that I should ask exactly whose problem it is. When I really got to thinking about this, I decided I should respond to Larisa's post that I linked above. I noticed my response was getting to long so I started writing my own blog post. Unfortunately that got a little too long as well - after some editing, I still have 25 pages on the subject1.

Because that's a little bit more than I would expect anyone to be interested in reading, I wanted to try to express some of the basic ideas I have on the subject more succinctly through a few blog posts. Naturally, I am aware of the fact that very few people actually read my blog, so I don't hit a much larger audience by moving from 25-page-internet-essay format to blog format, but still.

As I said, the key to understanding the problem with GearScore is really understanding who it is a problem for and why we should care. GearScore - and other related problems, like requesting people link an achievement for killing the boss before they are allowed to attend a raid to kill that boss - is a problem for new and casual raiders. It is a barrier to entry for people who want to check raiding out or who like raiding but who don't have a large number of hours to devote to raiding each week.

Just as importantly, I think we should realize that GearScore and achievements are not the problems in themselves. The problem stems from the current climate for PUG raids, and GearScore and achievement requests are band-aids for that problem.

I want to talk about this because I think it is one of the most important issues facing the game. People can say all sorts of negative things about WoW and specifically about the direction the game is heading in, but I think the fundamental answer to most of the complaints is the let people who don't like the game move on to other things and continue to make the game better. The experiment of trying to let everyone - or at least a lot of people - get involved in raiding is an interesting one, and one that was bound to create unforeseen problems. Finding solutions to these problems has a huge potential to improve the game for players of all levels of commitment and interest.

1. If you'd like to read it, it's here, though I wouldn't say it's really finished or polished.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paying Attention

If you read some recent developer comments about the game, you find out some strange things. It seems that it is impossible to heal through bosses with priests and shamans since paladin and druids AoE heals are so much more powerful. It seems that until recently most tanks were getting two-shotted because bears were so ridiculously tough that when the bosses hit hard enough to threaten bears, they hit way too hard for the other tanks.

What's interesting to me about this is that they balanced the bosses this way. They balanced the bosses around the broken tank and the broken healers. How could this possibly happen without simultaneously noticing that the tank and healers in question were dramatically overpowered?

Obviously at this point they have noticed the problems and they are figuring out how they are going to fix them. Despite that, I worry that the developers do too much of their balancing by tweaking numbers up and down based on experience and not enough of it based on math. There is definitely room for both things - no matter how good you are at creating models of situations, boss fights are extremely complex. Models and math can only get you so far and you have to dive in at some point and see how it works and whether it can be beaten with real raids. But some rudimentary math well before you got to the point would give you things like maximum theoretical healer AoE throughput and how long they can afford to keep that up in level 359 gear. It can give you things like the health of a bear tank versus a warrior tank, the size of Savage Defense shields and the frequency that the bear puts them up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two Streams

There are two streams of dungeons and raids in WoW - normal and heroic. Unfortunately there aren't really two streams at all. There is one stream, and it cuts through both of the difficulties. The expected progression in cataclysm is to level to 85, then do normal dungeons to gear up for heroics, heroics to gear up for normal raids, normal raids to gear up for heroic raids and then heroic raids.

Being a novice RTS player, when I got Starcraft 2 I decided to play through the campaign on Normal difficulty. It turned out Normal was pretty easy and I bumped it up to Hard fairly quickly. Now that I'm better at playing the game I've done most of the missions on Brutal difficulty - mostly because I want the achievements. I didn't, however, play Normal to practice for Hard, or Hard to practice for Brutal. I played Normal because I thought it was the right difficulty level for me. Then I played Hard because I thought it was the right difficulty for me, and I had more fun doing it.

The idea of having more than one difficulty level is a good one because it lets different players play at their own paces. If you want to play on Casual, you can do that. If you want to play on Brutal, you can do that. If you want to use cheat codes to be invincible, those are conveniently built into the game. You play how you want to play. Imagine if in order to play Normal you had to play through Casual to unlock it. For experienced RTS players, especially those with a background in the original Starcraft, this would make the game needlessly tedious.

Unfortunately this is the path of progression in WoW. Bosses on normal difficulty don't offer the challenge that top-end players are looking for. Forcing top end players to play through on this difficulty creates lots of negative outcomes.

First, it increases the shared sense in the community that WoW is just easy. After all, you make the best players do things that are in fact easy for them.

Second, it puts people will greatly different expectations in terms of skill, gear and efficiency in groups together through the dungeon finder. Even top end players have to run heroics to maximize their ability to get top-tier gear. These players create a lot of friction in the dungeon finder by having expectations of speed and efficiency that the other players on their run don't necessarily want to live up to.

Third, and I think most importantly, it drastically reduces the excitement of defeating bosses. Part of the excitement of beating a boss is getting to move on to the next new thing. When you've already been forced to run the instance on an easier difficulty, there is no next new thing - you are just repeating what you've done before. When we beat Al'ar it was exciting to go on to Void Reaver. When we beat Opera, it was exciting to unlock the back door, climb the stairs and face Curator. When we beat heroic Marrowgar, we got to go fight Lady Deathwhisper, who we had already killed a dozen times.

The solution to these problems is simple. Segregate the difficulties and allow people to choose which one they want to play based on how they want to play the game. Normal instances gear you up for normal raids, heroic instances gear you up for heroic raids - as simple as that. Make the heroic raid precisely one tier more powerful than the normal raid gear so that people who run the heroic don't have to gear up for the next heroic tier in the next normal tier.

Having difficulty settings is a good way to let people choose how they play the game, but a bad way to build in progression. If your way of playing the game is my tedious stepping stone then instead of giving us different choices, the difficulties are forcing us to step on each other's toes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Power Word: Barrier

We were promised Power Word: Barrier some time ago1 but it ended up being cut. I believe this was because they just weren't getting it to work the way they wanted to. At the time I remember thinking it was a very difficult spell to implement. Obviously one way to implement an AoE shield is just to dump an individual shield on each person in an area, but that doesn't really have the right feel to it.

The implementation they came up with fits the idea of standing under a big shield that you share with your friends. The shield has a certain amount of damage it can absorb in total, but also a limit per hit so that if one person takes a massive hit they don't hog the whole shield.

The problem with this implementation is what happens when you cast it just one person. I'll use level 80 examples because they are more in our familiar range of understanding at this point. If you have around 4000 spell power then the shield can take about 51.6k, with 10.3k being the maximum per hit. If you cast that in front of the boss where the tank is standing then the tank gets 10.3k off every hit for the next five hits before the shield collapses. If a boss is swinging for 25k damage, this is basically Pain Suppression. If a boss is swinging for 35k then it's only 28% damage reduction, but that's an awful lot. What's important, though, is that it is a 52k instant cast heal on a single target in 10.3k installments. Think of it as a stupidly overpowered Renew.

Compare this to its AoE use. Suppose you are fighting the 10 player Sindragosa encounter. Her frost aura does 3750 damage every three seconds - and will be reduced by almost exactly 20% by resists. If non-tanks have an average of three stacks of mystic buffet, and they are gathered up under a shield, that means the shield will be block two ticks of the aura. This is not really that impressive. In fact, considering the positional requirements, it is arguable that Prayer of Mending is equally powerful or more powerful for this application, and that has a 10 second cooldown instead of a 2 minute cooldown.

For single massive AoE blasts there is a good chance that Power Word: Barrier will be inordinately effective. This is because, most likely, each person under the barrier will benefit from the full reduction of the barrier from a single hit even if that total overwhelms the total absorb of the barrier. That is, if your entire 25-player raid is standing under the barrier when the Lich King casts infest, it probably blocks 10.3k from each person, despite the fact that this means it absorbed over four times its maximum amount. This would be consistent with the behaviour of Anti-Magic Field, the spell that Power Word: Barrier was clearly based on. If the code does not have this mistake then it would basically be a 2-minute cooldown double strength Prayer of Healing.

Power Word: Barrier is good for two things: 1) For use as an external damage reduction cooldown on an individual who is standing in an isolated location or who is not standing near anyone else who will be taking damage; and 2) To take the edge off a powerful AoE attack that hits the entire raid when the raid can afford to stand together in preparation for the attack assuming that the way the coding works allows it to absorb far more than is intended.

When they announced Power Word: Barrier I really wasn't sure what kind of mechanics they could use to make it work. Clearly, they want it to have the thematic idea of sharing the shield between the people under it rather than giving each person their own shield. That requires a very large shield to be useful, but they certainly don't want it to be a super single-target shield.

These are some very significant problems to overcome. Unfortunately the design they settled on does not overcome them. The most likely outcome of Power Word: Barrier is that discipline priests will be seen as the external tanking cooldown healer - and will quite possibly be overpowered for this reason.

1. I believe they first announced it for patch 3.1, but it might have been 3.2

Monday, November 1, 2010


The 4.0.1 problems with PvP and the attempt to solve them really highlighted some of the problems with Resilience. When 4.0.1 came out there was a big problem with people getting one-shotted or nearly one-shotted in battlegrounds. I forgot to put on my PvP gear in one Arathi Basin battle and took an Arcane Blast critical for around 28k. Apparently some ret paladins were doing single hits of up to 20k.

Obviously people being able to strip off half your health with a single attack in PvP is a big problem. On the other hand, people being totally unable to do any damage is a problem as well. Their initial reaction to the problem was to increase the effect of Resilience by 50%, so my 40%-ish damage reduction increased to 60%-ish damage reduction. Now that 28k Arcane Blast crit would only be 11k. Without the critical it would be a measly 5.5k.

In fact, I was usually pretty much invincible. I would heal myself through three people attacking me, despite stuns, silences and fears. Of course Blizzard noticed that this resilience chance was too much, so they lowered the effect of Resilience it by 25%1.

But when I go into battlegrounds, I'm still ridiculously tough. Other people on my team still get one-shotted. Why is this happening? It's because PvP balance comes from a single stat that starts at zero and gets better the more points you have of it.

Blizzard has put a lot of formulae in the game - some more complex than others - to try to prevent stats from getting better the more you have. For armor, the damage reduction formula means that armor expands your effective health linearly. For dodge and parry the diminishing returns formula does not quite come up with a linear result, but it was put into place to avoid these stats from becoming too powerful when you stack too much of them. Resilience has no such diminishing returns, it's power is just left to expand unchecked.

The math behind this is really simple. If you get a certain amount of resilience you take 1% less damage from your enemies. So if you started with zero, then you would now be taking 99% damage instead of 100%. But if you started with enough for a 40% reduction, you'd now be taking 59% instead of 60%. The thing is that while in one sense 59% is 1% less than 60%, the actual amount of damage you are taking with the extra resilience is not 1% less than what you were taking before. 59 divided by 60 is 0.983, so you are taking about 1.7% less damage then you were before you added that resilience. Resilience is 70% better when you already have enough for a 40% reduction than it was when you had none at all in terms of helping you live longer.

Making matters worse is that, as shown above, they like to fix PvP problems by adjusting the amount of damage reduction resilience gives. When they increased the value of resilience by 50%, the moved me from 40% to 60% resilience. I now took 40% instead of 60% of the damage my opponent's did. I was taking two-thirds of the damage, and my time to die from the same pressure by 50%.

A very well geared PvPer can get closer to 50% resilience. Increased that by 50% makes it 75%. So they take 25% instead of 50% of the damage they would have without it. They take half damage, and their time to die is doubled. Buffing resilience may make PvP more survivable on the whole, but it also drastically increases the disparity in power levels between the best and worst geared PvPers.

On top of this, so much PvP balance being dependent on resilience really messes up early expansion PvP. There were a lot of complaints about the first arena season in Wrath because people died so fast there was no time to have a good fight. The response from Blizzard was that we should wait until people get some resilience. There was a little more to it than that - people had easy access to relatively high level PvE gear via Naxxramas and much more limited access to PvP gear - but the increasing returns nature of resilience will always mean that PvP works without a certain range of resilience values and breaks down outside that range.

The incredibly high coefficient on resilience in Cataclysm will probably end up keeping resilience damage reduction values very low - unless they decide to improve them, damage reduction from resilience shouldn't get to even 20%, let alone 50%. Because of this, the problems with resilience will be much less pronounced in Cataclysm than they were in Wrath. But bad math continues to be bad math even when numbers close to zero make it not matter much.

The resilience formula should look just like the armor formula so that effective health in PvP expands linearly - rather than asymptotically - with resilience.

1. That is, they lowered it by 25% of the new value, which was 150% of the old value, so it was now 112.5% of the old value. Despite the fact that they gave an example of what they meant, I had to read their post a couple of times to figure out what they had done. Changing current values by percentages is quite uninformative.