Thursday, January 6, 2011

Melee Hate

With the recent comment from Paragon on their Ascendant Council kill and the need to sit melee classes in favour of ranged, I expect a lot of people are talking about the problems with melee dps and how so many fights are designed to punish us for being near bosses or being near one another.

I'm actually not that worried about Paragon stacking ranged on a fight, because they would obviously stack whatever it took. If it came down to it they would bring 8-10 of a single class that was ideal for an encounter. But it isn't that one fight that is causing the problem, it is nearly every fight. The problem is not that developers have been going out of their way to make things hard on melee, it's that their entire toolbox makes things harder on melee.

To quote paragon: "Here's to hoping next tier of raiding won't favor ranged by design. Maybe even go wild and give some incentive to bring in melee, too."

What might incentive to bring melee look like? To be less ambitious, what might simply not favouring ranged look like?

Any ability that requires people to spread out, clump together, be far from the boss, move to a specific spot, or really to be anywhere at all favours ranged. Any ability that requires a switch of targets favours ranged. Any ability that makes an area dangerous or puts fire on the ground favours ranged.

There were fifty bosses in Wrath of the Lich King. Of those bosses 17 actively punished you for bringing melee, or for bringing more than one or two melee; 18 had mechanics that noticeably favoured ranged with positional requirements; 5 were pretty much the same for melee and ranged provided that you did not bring a group very heavily weighted towards melee; leaving 9 where there was no substantial difference and only one where it was better to bring melee. Even on the fight where I think melee were definitely preferred - Anub'Arak - that was because of "free" cleaves, a mechanic that has gone away.

The reason why ranged are generally better than melee is simple: being able to attack at range is better than not being able to. There is no arguing that point. A warrior must be 0-5 yards away from an enemy to attack, a mage must be 0-40. There is no compensation for the warrior for this disadvantage.

So what can be done to fix this? What encounter mechanics can make it so that we'll want to bring more melee to raids? I'm not sure there are any. If a mechanic punishes you for being 30 yards from the boss then the ranged will just stand next to the boss - this would be a hunter punishing mechanic, not a melee favouring mechanic. In order to avoid that, they have to put a reason why someone has to be 30 yards from the boss. In that case it has become a melee punishing mechanic. With mechanics like that a raid of 2 tanks, 3 healers, a rogues, a death knight, an enhancement shaman, a warrior and a feral druid just can't win - a pretty severe punishment. Best case scenario for such a raid is that a healer is performing the job that requires range and dodging whatever they have to dodge.

The only thing melee have going for them right now is that melee classes consistently have interrupts on 10 second cooldowns. But even then, shaman have a 6 second ranged interrupt, so this is not a clear advantage and it isn't a reason to favour melee.

If there are no mechanics that can favour melee, then what can be done to make it so melee is not worse than range? Should they do more damage? Unfortunately this would create a host of new problems. Suppose melee did 10% more damage than ranged and that melee hate remained the way it is. Take a boss like Kel'Thuzad who creates very difficult positioning for melee classes, and limits the number of melee you can bring before you run into problems. A 10-player raid only has 5 dps, so a 10% buff to one of them is nearly a 2% buff to the raid. If the boss has a six minute enrage timer than 2% is a difference of 7.2 seconds. So how much health does the boss get to make the enrage timer threatening? If they tune it so that you are supposed to have three melee and deal with the positioning then thats like cutting 22 seconds off the time that a group of ranged dps has to kill the boss. If they tune it so you don't need to bring melee then a group with good melee dps can beat the fight in much lower gear than was intended.

They could make melee do more damage, and rely on the melee punishing effects and the time they spend running around to cut it back to the same as ranged, but then melee classes do the same damage and require more skill to play.

I don't have a solution to this one. The current situation is that ranged can always be substituted in for melee and the reverse is not true. I don't think that is a healthy state for the game, but I really don't see what to do about it, since any advantage given to melee would just tend to create a problem in the other direction. The one option I can think of is to give all ranged classes s minimum range similar to that of hunters, but the consequences of that for PvP and solo play would be disastrous.


  1. Thank you so much for writing this. I've been saying this until I'm blue in the face, and I'm just tickled that I'm not alone thinking it.

  2. As a raid leader I've lamented this for a long time, I regularly say that a melee is just a ranged dps with a special restriction about dps range. However on fights like Putricide I started to learn that the melee advantage is that they have better mobile dps, though less true today with most ranged dps having better mobile dps options, melee dps (maybe not enh) can do the same dps as they run along side something on the move. Though I guess if the ranged get to sit there and turret at the target then the advantage is less important.