Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sometimes I Just Have to /Facepalm

I get that a lot of people have different perspectives and enjoy different things.  I lead a raiding guild that full clears heroic content every patch.  Navi leads a casual raiding guild that's working through heroics on this crazy long raid tier.  Stubborn plays WoW casually, doing Flex/Normal modes when the opportunity presents itself.  Theck is a theorycrafting genius who loves doing loads of complicated math.  Etc.  People are different.

And because of that, people like different things and thus have different opinions about stuff.

...but sometimes, you get people who are just flat out wrong.  Not different opinions, not valuing different things...just wrong.

Like this blog post, for example.

Now, before we get to picking it apart I want to explain *why* I am coming down on this so harshly.  One of my major pet peeves is rose colored glasses and nostalgia.  I hate it when people go "OMG IT USED TO BE SO COOL, NOW IT SUCKS!" without any actual reasons.  Keep in mind this is coming from someone who still plays several 10+ year old games (such as NWN, Half Life (2), WC3/TFT, etc) so I still enjoy older games.  I'm not obsessed with the "latest and greatest."  But I do strongly dislike when people instinctively hate newer and different things simply for being new and different (especially when they don't even UNDERSTAND the newer things).

So let's look at the blog post title:

"Slower Combat Had More Depth."

Okay.  I can somewhat buy the general premise.  Games that require reasonably fast reaction times don't give you a lot of time to consider your best move, part of the challenge is deciding on a good action quickly.  The board game Chess has more depth than the card card Speed.

But then we just go into loony town with bizarre and incorrect statement after bizarre and incorrect statement!

Complexity of Decisions
Today there are very few decisions to be made. One simply walks up to a mob and executes abilities in any order. The real decision is which order to use the abilities to kill the monster fastest–everything is about actively attacking. There isn’t much thought to being hit yourself, or minimizing usage of abilities to preserve mana or stamina. The two real thoughts that I have are, (1) Do I need to kill this, and (2) Do I want to? The HOW has been completely lost.

First of all, there's contradictions right in that paragraph.  So we can execute abilities in any order...but we're also making a decision on how to kill the monster fastest...but we don't have to make a decision on how to kill the enemy?  Huh?  I'm already lost!

But which order to use the abilities to kill the monster the fastest actually winds up being incredibly important, as anyone who has done challenge mode dungeons or raiding in WoW knows well.  Hundreds of hours of theorycrafting and testing are done to determine optimal strategies for play.  The differences between playing correctly and not playing correctly can easily double your damage per second.

On top of that, there's plenty of thought devoted to being not hit yourself -- one of the basic mantras of WoW raiding is "Don't stand in the fire."  Sometimes the fire is lightning strikes on the ground, sometimes the fire is a cleave type ability, sometimes the fire is robotic bombs trying to run to you and explodes, and sometimes the fire is actually simply fire on the ground.  Etc.  NOT getting hit by stuff is insanely important or you will simply die.  Or, in other cases, you'll require so much healing that you'll drain the mana of the healers and thus your group will die...which is an example of how you DO need to minimize usage of abilities to preserve mana (see the fourth sentence above).

This isn't even talking about things like kill priority, AoE vs single target, pooling resources for burst windows, holding DPS to time things better, ets.

This ALSO isn't even getting into PvP where using abilities correctly, not getting hit, preserving resources, etc, are also critical.

In short, that paragraph is so, so, so very wrong.

Tanks used to require a decent amount of time to get aggro. I really can’t remember the last time I grouped and waited before DPSing. In EQ a wizard absolutely would not nuke until the mob was below 80% — the wizard wouldn’t even stand up. Healers wouldn’t even heal because aggro would come off the tank. Tanking took time, monsters took time to taunt and build up a safe aggro, and players respected that or died.

And...where is the awesome depth in this?  Sitting around for 15-30 seconds doing nothing is some kind of compelling gameplay?  Not only that, but consider some numbers.  Say 1 damage = 1 threat for everyone, you have a group of 1 tank, 3 DPS, and 1 healer, and we'll remove the healer from consideration.  Let's also assume the DPS do twice the damage per second as the tank and let's assume the tank is doing 1% of the mob's HP per second.

After 20 seconds the mob is at 80% HP and the tank has 20 threat.  The three DPS open up.

After 30 seconds the mob is at 10% HP, the tank has 30 threat, and each DPS has 20 threat.

After 31.43 seconds the mob is dead, the tank has about 31 threat and the DPS each have about 22 threat.

That means the DPS were literally sitting around for 20/31.43 = 63.6% of the fight doing nothing at all.

If the DPS want to live dangerously, they could open up at 87.5% of the mob's HP and each DPS and the tank will wind up at 25 threat the end.  Which is *still* sitting around doing nothing for 50% of the time.  This sounds like depth and good gameplay?  Really?

Class Specialization
This could also be called the “characters do one thing well” category. Having certain classes in your group would actually slow down the rate at which you could kill a single mob, thus slowing combat, but might improve your abilities to survive, pull multiple mobs at once and take a tougher spawn, or recover from battle quicker and move on to the next kill. Sometimes a class would literally be invited to do nothing but pull and contribute very little to DPS. Sometimes a class would do nothing but heal or buff. These days everyone is a DPS.

Everyone is a DPS?  Weren't we just talking about tanks and threat and how healers would wait to heal them?

I mean, even look at that second to last sentence: "Sometimes a class would do nothing but heal or buff."  You healer?  Part of the holy trinity?  Usually about 20% of a group?  Ring a bell?

But let's be generous.  Let's even assume they meant "All non-tanks and non-healers are DPS" instead of some classes being solely about pulling or solely about buffs or something.  That rings a bell...raiding during BC anyone?  Bring an enhancement shaman (but only one) to buff the melee group?  Bring an elemental shaman (but only one) to buff the caster group?  Bring a boomkin (but only one) to to give a debuff?  Bring an Arms warrior (but only one) to give a debuff?  Bring 2-3 shadow priests to regen the mana of your casters and healers?

Blizzard moved away from that model for a reason -- it's not fun or engaging or deep or anything to have to deny players because the optimal path is to have only one boomkin or one enhancement shaman or whatever.

But even within the "all non-tanks and non-healers are DPS" model there's still class variance where certain DPS classes and specialization are stacked for encounters.  And even when they aren't stacked for encounters certain parts of encounters are handled by certain DPS players based on class differences.

Ask someone how a warlock compares to a rogue compares to a mage compares to whatever.  They each have different strengths, different weaknesses, and different buffs (though usually about 1/3 of the classes can bring a specific buff).

Managing Resources
Managing mana consumption was often the difference between a great player and a good one. Healers who knew which heals to use and when, Wizards who knew how many times they should nuke to add the most efficient DPS to a group (the key being “efficient”), etc. Consume your resources and combat was slower. Have to worry about them at all and combat naturally becomes much, much slower.

Interestingly enough, healers *still* need to know which heals to use and when.  They *still* need to manage their mana.

And a caster conserving their mana as part of a DPS rotation is just another DPS rotation.  Except now the DPS rotation involves standing around doing nothing apparently because this is more deep?  Or something?

Auto Attack
Remember our old friend “white damage?” I love auto attack. I remember the days when it comprised of a massive portion of overall damage done by melee characters.  The entire concept is all but completely done away with in favor of rotations and constant ability usage. Older MMOs had fewer abilities (most of the time).

Isn't this the *opposite* of deep?  It's literally saying "I wish more of my damage came from stuff I didn't have to control or worry about so the game has more depth."

That makes zero sense.  If you want depth and the most decision making, in theory you'd want NO auto-attack (like a caster) so EVERYTHING is your decision and has to be chosen wisely.

Please, consider this a PSA.  Check your rose-colored classes at the door and shed your nostalgia.  Approach things critically and think them through carefully.  Don't get so attached to "the way things used to be" that you blind yourself to all of the flaws that existed then.

Newer isn't always better, no.  In fact, perhaps it's not even better most of the time.

But by the same token, newer isn't automatically worse either.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some Thoughts on Going 14/14H 25 Man After Being 14/14H 10 Man

Long time, no post.  Real life has been hell and in my smaller amount of free time than I'd like I've been busy with three separate projects:

1. Transitioning my guild from a 10 man heroic raiding guild (14/14H) to a 25 man heroic raiding guild (14/14H).
2. Finishing a project in NWN, which is something I'll have an upcoming post on regarding class balance in RPGs and various conundrums of healing systems.
3. Helping another NWN module author beta test and polish a module.

So let's talk about #1 up there for a bit.  <Despotism> is a two night (Sun/Mon from 7:30 CST to 11:30-12:00 CST) guild I formed at the end of WotLK well after the zone buff had begun.  It consisted of 4 real life friends plus myself and we PUGed our way each week to 11/12H in 10 man.  Fast forward to Cataclysm with increased 10 man difficulty.  We decided to get an actual raiding team together and, after lots of recruitment and slowly progressing, we managed to go from 5 players PUGing the first first bosses to a team that killed 7/13H with our last kill being Heroic Nefarian.  First Alliance guild to do that on our realm, too, and it put us on the map.

We kept improving the roster during Firelands and killed Heroic Ragnaros while current, getting server first and being the top two night a week guild in the US (possibly world, I forget).  Been full clearing heroics every tier since then and, as I recall, been the top two night guild in the US throughout our history.  Got murkier in Siege of Orgrimmar since 25 man guilds killed the dramatically easier 25H Garrosh before we killed the harder 10H Garrosh.  Mythic solves that problem, I suppose.

Speaking of Mythic, we had to get ready for it!  After we killed Heroic Garrosh on 10 man we began slowly recruiting so we could transition to 25 man.  Six weeks ago we were able to do so and got 13/14H our first week as a 25 man.  Killed Heroic Garrosh three weeks after that (had some undergeared people and had to replace some people) on 25H and we'll kill him a third time by the end of this week (hopefully tomorrow, potentially on Monday).

Let me put this frankly: recruiting sucked.

Granted, it was harder for us as a fairly niche guild -- casual two nights with hardcore skill requirements, you might say.  Very small recruitment pool and maybe other guilds had it easier.  But thank goodness we were 14/14H as I cannot imagine how painful it would have been otherwise.  I suspect a lot of guilds are going to die off with this turmoil.

Strangely enough, now that we're 14/14H on 25 man we're getting quite a few good applicants!  The Catch-22 of raiding.

Going to talk some more in other posts about some of the changes we've had to make in terms of guild policies and raid environment but this is already a reasonably long post.  So I wanted to finish this by discussing each boss for 10H versus 25H (this analysis is assuming equal gear, which we obviously didn't have but I'm extrapolating).

Heroic Immerseus
Holy cow this fight is a complete joke on 25 man.  The new heroic mechanic is irrelevant and the puddles are so easy to control with this many people.  Went from being harder than Protectors/Norushen/Galakras/Nazgrim on 10H to definitely being the easiest heroic.

Not much to say about this fight, about the same, except more zergable due to the all the extra cooldowns.

Definitely can get a lot crazier with a lot more adds for people to control up top, had to be a bit more careful than on 10 man, still easy as long as you're not greedy with purifying people.

Sha of Pride
About the same as 10 man.  We spread out and ignore the Gift of the Titans buff (unlike 10H), have to deal with two more prisons, and have two adds to kill...but we have a lot more cooldowns to use as well.

Basically the same.

Iron Juggernaut
Much easier than 10 man, more cooldowns to throw at problems.

Dark Shaman
Easier but not obscenely so like some of the other fights.

General Nazgrim
Joke on both sizes.

Now we get to the harder bosses!

Much easier than 10 man, soaking puddles is trivial.  Only thing more difficult is taunting all three adds in.

Basically the same.

Easier but in a weird way.  Instead of needing 3 groups of people during screech phase we only needed two.  Screech hits for a lot more proportionally but, as I might have mentioned, we have a lot more cooldowns to use as well.  About the same post-nerf.

Still easier on 25 man post-nerf (unless you have an insane 10 man composition), so much more CC to control mines.

Surprise, Paragons is still harder on 25 man, though all the extra gear means it's mainly "DON'T STAND IN THE RAPID FIRE OR FIERY LINES OR CAUSTIC AMBER!"  95% of wipes were due to people standing in the metaphorical fire (and there is so much of it).  It's a fight where we expect to have people dead at the end, though that will improve.

Hard to say.  It's a lot easier to trivialize the DPS check for Garrosh on 25 man with kiting but at the same time it's REALLY not that hard to just "spread out, kill adds" on 10 man (all the gear and 4/4 upgrades makes the DPS check very easy to meet).  The first intermission in Jade Serpent Temple is miles easier, that's the biggest difference at this point, I think.  With much worse gear, though, 10H was definitely far harder since you couldn't kite the adds for extra DPS and the first intermission was absolutely brutal.

Anyway, sorry for the absence, got some posts coming up on both how 25 guilds work differently from 10 mans and some RPG game mechanic discussion revolving around that NWN module I mentioned.