Monthly Archives: February 2012

Why two raid sizes are worse than one

When they made the announcements at Blizzcon, I was excited by all the various things that were going to get fixed in Mists of Pandaria: More activities you could do by yourself or in small groups (3-man instances, pet battles, 5-man challenge modes), along with huge class and talent changes. However, the information on raids in Mists of Pandaria greatly concerned me. The raiding content was going to maintain the current split of 10 Normal, 25 Normal, 10 Heroic, 25 Heroic (with the addition of 25 LFR that got introduced in Dragonsoul). I see topics about raid sizes pop up all the time, most recently on WoW insider. This topic always gets me all worked up and angry because I’m in a 25-man raiding guild and I don’t want to see my guild die (and I feel like all attempts I make to defend my 25-man raid size just ends up with 10-man raiders angry at me). So, I’m going to take a slightly different approach with this article to look at why I feel that having two raid sizes is bad for the community (but more than one difficulty level is okay), why 25-mans aren’t going to survive MoP, and why I wish we would just move to 15-man raids.

Difficulty levels are okay

Having three difficulty levels (LFR, Normal, and Hard modes) seems to overall be fine. You can  kill a boss in normal-mode and then go and kill it on hard mode, and you get a sense of accomplishment for having mastered the harder difficulty level. Some guilds will only see it on the normal level, and they will still be proud of themselves for seeing the content on their schedule. There are plenty of people who don’t have the life, reaction times, reflexes, experience, and/or computer equipment to handle raiding super hard modes all the time. My guild is full of a lot of people who have limited playtimes and have “retired” from hard-core raiding, and we have also brought to our raiding team brand-new raiders who entered their first raid dungeon with us when they first started raiding. While having multiple difficulty levels stressed me out when they first came out, I’ve come to accept that this was an overall good change for the game, even if there could  be better ways to have more linear scaling rather than dichotomous scaling. Still, for the purposes of this post, I wanted to highlight that the multiple difficulty levels doesn’t create a problem for forming new guilds,  since you have to kill normal-modes before you can start on hard-modes, everyone starts at the same place.

The problem of Brown shirts versus Green shirts

I often draw upon my psychology background for thinking about game mechanics. In some research labs, they split people in a room into two groups, and have them wear different colored shirts. For this example, lets say that these were the “brown” and “green” shirt groups. What actually happens in that community is that you get a division where people in the various shirt groups may actually grow to dislike each other over time, because you will grown an affinity with your “in-group” and discriminate against your “out-group”.

Why does this matter for the discussion of raid sizes? Well, being in a 25-man or 10-man guild is basically as meaningful right now as wearing a green or brown shirt – they are supposed to be the same. There is no meaningful reward for being in one raid size or another, there is no meaningful reason for two raid sizes to still exist, and all it does is create problems for the community because green shirts don’t want to join brown shirt guilds, and vice versa. Even if they are “the same” and all we do is come up with reasons for why one shirt is better or worse than the other. This is largely why “separate but equal” as a concept for creating our own social groups is fundamentally flawed and bad for the game, especially when one group is always going to feel like a minority. In WotLK, 10-mans were the minority, and that has swung the other way where now 25-mans are the minority.

Why 25-man raiding will eventually die at the current trajectory

People will largely take the easier path to get the best rewards. If LFR and Heroic modes offered the same exact ilevel rewards, no one would raid Heroic Modes, we’d all just run LFR. That’s why LFR and Heroic Modes have to offer different gear rewards – because if the only reward from doing Heroic Modes was an achievement that said “Congratulations on killing this harder boss” and handed you the same gear rewards, you wouldn’t do it.

There is one big difference that Blizzard couldn’t equalize for 10-mans versus 25-mans when they equalized the rewards by giving 10s and 25s the same ilevel loot rewards (ilevel is the only tangible loot reward indicator, so all other differences in loot rewards are essentially meaningless – and so I’m not going to talk about them here). That one big elephant in the room is about how easy or hard it is to form a brand new raiding guild. Regardless of the raid size, groups are always going to fall apart. People are always going to burn out of one raid group and join another. New guilds always have to form to take their place, and how those guilds form will always be driven by a number of factors, but in the end, people will form the guilds that are the easiest to form. Here are some “facts”, keeping in mind that this is coming from the perspective of a 25-man raider, and that I have at least some sort of bias against 10-man guilds for the reasons I explained above:

  • Many guild leaders eventually get tired of leading the guild, and guilds often fall apart when their guild masters and officers burn out. Some guilds across the world stop raiding and fall apart every month, though the number of guilds falling apart varies, the fact is that there is an almost constant churn of old groups disbanding and new groups forming.
  • It is easier to form a brand new 10-man guild and start raiding than it is to form a 25-man guild and start raiding.
  • It is easy for a 25-man guild to down-size to a 10-man guild when your recruitment can’t keep up with your need for raiders.
  • It is easy for a 25-man guild to turn into a 10-man guild.
  • There are plenty of new 10-man guilds forming to keep up with the loss of 10-man guilds. There are NOT enough 25-man guilds to keep up with the loss of 10-man guilds.
  • If 25-man raids keep falling apart faster than new 25-man raids form, then eventually there won’t be any new 25-man raids. There is no incentive for an inspiring Guild Master to form a 25-man raiding guild, and there isn’t any way to reward 25-man guild masters that won’t piss off all the people who want to raid 10-mans (because any meaningful incentives given to green shirts are seen as discrimination against brown shirts, and vice versa).

Why moving to 15-man raids is better than this death-spiral for 25-mans.

On one hand, there are a lot of people who are really attached to their 25-man raid size and hates 10-man raids, and so they want to see their raid size continue on in Mists of Pandaria.  On the other hand, we are quickly reaching the point where there won’t be enough people willing to lead new 25-man guilds to keep that raiding size alive. Within 2 years, I don’t expect there to be enough 25-man raiding guilds running for Blizzard to be able to justify keeping the raid size on life-support. Each raid size requires development time and money to sustain. That slow death of 25-man normal/HM raids sucks for this game and  hurts the community. The death of 25-mans is slow and painful, and feels like death by a thousand paper cuts. Just dissolving 25-mans and making everyone raid 10-mans sucks because there is still clearly a demand for the larger raid sizes even if no one is willing to lead the guilds necessary to support the raiding size.

We need to move to a one raid size to bring the community back to life again. With one raid size, you don’t have to choose between joining the  brown shirt or green shirt team – everyone is on the same team! We can get more interesting content when Blizzard doesn’t have to worry about it being “equal” for the two raid sizes, so the players win by getting better quality and quantity of content. If difficulty of the encounters is the only dimension we need to be worried about, that makes recruitment easier for everyone, it makes the community more cohesive, and everyone wins.

I have written about wanting 15-man (one size fits all) raids in the past. I have always pushed for 15-mans as the compromise raid size for two reasons: 1) ten people used to be able to enter the 5-man content in Vanilla, making 10-man equivalent in “epic scale” to me as 5-mans, and 2) they capitalize on the class makeup flexibility of the larger raid sizes while having lower demands on the officers from an organizational standpoint than the 25’s. With Mists of Pandaria, 15-mans would allow for one of each class (once we have 11 classes) plus some growing room to have more than one of a few classes.

Posted in Mists of Pandaria, Written By Lissanna

Symbiosis and the Dark Intent problem

So, when the new talent tree updates were released, we also got some new information about how Symbiosis will work. You can read about the mechanic details here, if you haven’t already.

Lets take a look more specifically at the examples of abilities they gave us.

Here are some examples of spells gained through Symbiosis. The spells shared focus on utility, cooldowns, and survival.  (Adding Fireball to a Moonkin’s rotation sounds cool on paper, but wouldn’t actually be fun in the long run.)

Balance: Chains of Ice, Mirror Image, Mass Dispel
Feral: Feign Death (Play Dead!), Frost Nova, Soul Swap
Guardian: Ice Trap, Fear Ward, Consecration
Restoration: Ice Block, Hand of Sacrifice, Leap of Faith
Hunter: Dash
Warlock: Rejuvenation
Holy Paladin: Rebirth
Arms/Fury Warrior: Enrage
Enhancement/Elemental Shaman: Solar Beam

What does this mean? Well, these are a mix of baseline & specialization abilities. They are all mostly cooldowns & utility things. Moonkin for PvE would be able to pick up mirror image from mages to get a damage increasing cooldown relevant to their role in a raid. For PvP, maybe they want mass dispel or chains of ice. Remember that your specialization will have 10 possible abilities to choose from (one from each of the 10 classes). I’m personally really excited to get mirror image for my moonkin in PvE, and I’m going to start recruiting more mages to make sure I can have mirror images in my raid in MoP, since we only have one mage right now.

This is going to be really nice for druids if the allow symbiosis to potentially plug holes in our toolsets (ie. soulswap for feral druid bleeds, iceblock for resto PvP survivability, etc).

The Dark Intent Problem: As part of Symbiosis, you give a spell to the other class you linked with. This is likely going to be the most problematic part of the entire talent. If you were to give the other person things that changed the amount of DPS or healing they do in a raid situation, that could actually cause problems with class balancing (see: dark intent). In my raids right now, I usually complain when I’m moonkin DPS and I don’t get my dark intent, because that impacts how much DPS I can do in my raid. They are actually changing how dark intent works in Mists of Pandaria because of how it caused balancing problems for the caster classes.

However, Blizzard somehow didn’t learn from their mistake with Dark Intent, and are implementing symbiosis to give a whole ability to the class you cast it on. This problem is potentially worse than dark intent because the ability quite dramatically changes depending on who you cast it on. It may also limit how your team lets you use it. For example, in a PvE situation, you may benefit the most when you give it to a warlock, but your raid could require you to give it to a fury warrior, instead, because that benefits the raid the most (maybe your warlock doesn’t really need Rejuv in return). In PvP, giving dash to your hunter is going to be more beneficial than giving battle res to your paladin, although you may benefit more from the ability you would get from the paladin than the hunter. While Symbiosis as a whole is really awesome, it is going to cause all sorts of balancing issues that we need to be thinking about before the system goes live. It might just be better if the druid got an ability but didn’t give anything to their target, even though I think it would be fun for druids to have a super overpowered ability that everyone in your raid wanted. :)

I think that letting druids borrow abilities from other classes is perfectly fine, and is really neat. However, giving abilities to the other classes in return may cause problems and is something we should really think about as the development process goes on.

Posted in Cataclysm, Written By Lissanna

Updates to MoP Talent calculator

So, it looks like we got a nice MoP talent calculator update for druids. For this post, I’m just going to go through a handful of the bigger changes. I’ll do more focused critiques for resto & moonkin over the next few weeks. The change list isn’t inclusive of all the changes. I’m just highlighting some of the bigger changes.

Major talent changes:

  • None of the talents force-shift you into shapeshift forms anymore (except for displacer beast which is okay because it activates prowl). The talents are all useable in all forms. One additional awesome change is that all the feral utility abilities (dash, taunt, stampeding roar, etc) will shift you into an appropriate feral form if you are not already in form. So, the effect that used to be on the talents are now just on our baseline feral utility abilities (yay!). For tank swaps, if you are outside of bear form & need to taunt, you wouldn’t have to go into bear before taunting – taunting would just now shift you to bear.
  • All 3 level 15 movement abilities were changed. Wild Charge replaced dash 2.0 in the level 15 talents and they are all relatively caster-friendly now. Displacer beast sends you 20 yards forward (no longer random & dangerous), and feline swiftness increases the movement speed of all specs by an equal 15%.
  • New Talent (Soul of the Forrest) replaced the spot where wild charge used to be (does Eclipse power gains for moonkin & casting haste buff for resto).
  • Bear hug is now a baseline ability. Level 75 talent replaced with Mighty Bash. This requires you to be in melee range to stun the target for 5 seconds, but at least it is useable in all forms. I’m not totally sold on the level 75 talents for caster druids, but the talent set is better now.  They all seem really situational for PvE purposes.
  • Master shapeshifter is gone (as predicted). Replaced with Dream of Cenarius, where using healing spells give you a damage buff & using damage spells give you a healing buff. This is still situational and won’t likely be a DPS/HPS increase for your main role, but is still potentially useful for off-role utility purposes depending on how it ends up being implemented. Requires some beta testing for the mechanic to see if it ends up being useful or not. It’s better than the original horrible talent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is ready to go live as currently designed. It has more potential for being decent with some tweaks as we test the talents.

Overall talent change impressions:

Druid talents are obviously harder to get right than any of the other specs. Nothing really feels that amazing for PvE purposes in pretty much any tier. However, the are significantly better than the original talent tree versions. The problems with heart of the wild haven’t been addressed, but we are at least headed in the right direction and we can see that they are listening to at least some of the major criticisms about the original set of talents. There is still a LOT of work for us to do over the course of beta, but a lot of these talents now need to  be tested & theorycrafted instead of just being totally laughable.

Moonkin Ability Changes:

  • Eclipse gained an interesting effect, where Solar Eclipse will cause wrath to increase the duration of sunfire & Lunar Eclipse will cause starfire to increase the duration on moonfire.
  • The new insect swarm increases all spell damage by 25% rather than only increasing the damage done by our three nuke spells. I’m not sure what I think about the change or how it impacts what I wrote about earlier.

Conclusions:

All of the dispel abilities have cooldowns now for all the classes, which is the only major change to resto abilities. I didn’t see any other major resto spell changes, and I’m not looking at the cat/bear ability lists for time reasons (because I didn’t memorize the feral tooltips prior to the changes, lol). Symbiosis was clarified to say that it can’t be cast on other druids. The talents are now at a point where we need to test them in beta to really be able to see how they are going to work in the new content. Some of them may be very useful in certain encounters that we just haven’t seen yet, and some of them may turn out to be totally useless.

Posted in Cataclysm, Druid - General, Moonkin Balance DPS, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Insect Swarm in MoP

Edit: My timing sucked & this changed in the new calculator update. I edited this post to reflect the new changes. Edits are in itallics and outdated info has a strikethrough so you can see the changes.

So, we still have another month before we expect new Mists of Pandaria information. Today, I thought I would take a look at the new insect swarm ability as it is currently worded in the MoP talent calculators. Like all other things in MoP, this ability is subject to change.

  • The new insect swarm reads: (instant, 7% base mana, no cooldown, 40 yd range) “The target is swarmed by insects, increasing all damage taken from your wrath, starfire, and starsurge abilities by 30% for 1 minute. Limit 1 target”.
  • The new insect swarm (updated 2/15) reads: (Instant, 7% base mana, no cooldown 40 yd range): “The target is swarmed by insects, increasing all damage taken from your spells by 25% for 1 minute. Limit 1 target”.

Why change Insect swarm? So, this spell is no longer a DOT in MoP. Right now, it can account  for anywhere between 20% and 30% of our damage done in PvE. However, having both insect swarm and sunfire as DOTs that benefit from Solar Eclipse (and not having an arcane version of insect swarm) means that it contributes to the need to “solar cleave” for AOE damage. Removing one of our DOTs completely will make solar cleave much less beneficial for us. So, I believe that hampering solar cleave is the primary reason for the change.

The good: Changing insect swarm from a DOT to a debuff does several beneficial things:

  • One less DOT to track & rely on for DPS
  • Makes Lunar & Solar Eclipse more balanced. Combined with a better Arcane AOE rotation (where hurricane will comeback to be useful again), this pretty much destroys any chance for Solar Cleave to be as prominent in MoP.
  • Update: The Feb 15 change makes it effect all damage instead of just your nuke spells, so it would increase moonfire/sunfire damage and the AOE damage done to that one target. This is a slightly better version than the previous iteration.

The bad:

  • Makes PvP damage much more difficult, since DOTs account for a lot of the damage done in PvP for moonkin right now.
  • No longer available to resto druids (and resto druids don’t have sunfire).
  • The new insect swarm still has to be managed & refreshed multiple times in an encounter, since it has a short 1 minute cooldown (ie. in a 10 minute fight, you will still need to keep an eye on the debuff to make sure it doesn’t fall off).
  • It doesn’t do damage anymore, and it doesn’t provide any real utility. The tooltip suggests that it will only buff your spells (not the resto druid’s, not the other moonkin’s spells).
  • You can only have it on 1 target at a time, meaning you will have to keep re-applying it often for target-switch fights and for PvP.
  • We don’t know if it can be dispelled in PvP, and will leave moonkin largely unplayable in PvP if it can be dispelled.
  • It will be balanced such that your nukes will do 30 25% less damage when that buff isn’t up, and when your Eclipse is also down, it will make your nukes particularly weak. This will cause huge balancing issues for any PvE fight where you have to  switch targets a lot, and will really suck for PvP in particular where they’re also getting hit with the removal of being able to rely on DOT damage. Normally, I ignore PvP in my posts, but this is one place where I’m really worried about moonkin ever becoming PvP viable if the new insect swarm  makes things go from bad to worse.
  • Makes moonfire/Sunfire our only source of movement damage right now, leading us to really need to have the ability to cast our nukes while moving to remain viable for any type of content.

Options moving forward:

  • It could be possible to just leave Insect Swarm as a DOT and see if we still solar-cleave after all the other changes to the spec. I actually think that having Lunar Eclipshere effect some of our AOE abilities (ie. the new HurrArcane) will fix the solar cleave problem without changing IS.
  • It could be possible to remove insect swarm altogether. Our moonkin mechanics are already complicated enough that it is hard to master the spec, and there is a huge DPS gap between good moonkin & great moonkin, making the spec hard to balance. Having one less timer to track means that we’ll be able to have more moonkin succeed, and will prevent the changes to the spec from over-complicating our rotations further. They could also just make moonfire/sunfire increase the damage that our nukes do if they want this  spell effect without having to use a new spell to do it.
  • They could make sure that it is PvP friendly. Make insect swarm undispellable in PvP or reduce the effect from insect swarm to make it less punishing when it’s not on the target (down to say 10% or 15%). They could also increase the duration so that it was a little more “set it and forget it” for single-target PvE fights.
  • Make insect swarm a “finishing move” or a DPS cooldown. There are plenty of other tools moonkin could use more than the new MoP insect swarm effect. They could make it such that insect swarm was something we only cast when the target was below 25% health, or make it a cooldown that increased the damage from our nukes for only a short period of time. It would be a lot better if we could use it for controlled burst damage periods (say a 20 sec effect on a 2 min cooldown or whatever would be appropriate & balanced). Celestial Alignment doesn’t give us any burst damage if we are already in Eclipse (it only helps when we get caught outside of an Eclipse for an AOE or burst phase), so giving us another burst DPS cooldown (even if it only effected those 3 spells) would really help for burn phases in PvE and allow the PvP druids to get off more damage when they aren’t being focused (ie. pop displacer beast & then unload your cooldowns to nuke the target).

Conclusions:

With how many changes are being made to the moonkin toolkit overall, it will really be hard to see how this all works out until we get into Beta, or at least see the talent calculator updates. However, the current version is likely going to cause a lot of headaches as the tooltip is written. There is, however, still a lot of time between now & release, and this may be an ability that undergoes several revisions before it goes live (at least this prediction has already come true in today’s talent calculator update, lol). What do you guys think about the new insect swarm design?

Posted in Cataclysm, Moonkin Balance DPS, Written By Lissanna

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