Posts Tagged ‘Ghostcrawler’

What can I say? I missed doing these recaps. :)

Balancing life, work, gaming, WoW Insider and a couple of other endeavors has proven to be… well, to be honest, about as much of a brutal challenge as I feared it might be (but held out hope that it wouldn’t), so this blog and my time on public forums have been a-mightily neglected by me as a result.

But man, I liked This Week in Rogueball. I mean, c’mon: The title alone is enough of a reason not to give up on it. And I found it as useful to compile a list of recent rogue community goings-on as the millionsthousandshundredsscorestwo of you who regularly read them found them useful to read. They helped me stay disciplined about keeping up to date on what the Webby world is saying about our class.

So! No promises, but I’m gonna try to start this up again and see how it goes.

Blizzfolk on Twitter

We saw a flurry of tweets over the past week from Ghostcrawler (a.k.a. Greg Street), our soon-to-be dearly departed lead WoW systems designer, and Celestalon (a.k.a. Chadd Nervig), a previously under-the-radar game designer who over the past two weeks has established himself as GC’s “replacement” as a question-and-vitriol magnet on primarily PvE-related WoW issues.

Hop over to the Tweets From the Shadows page to see the full conversations, but in short, here’s what they talked about:

  • Celestalon affirmed that there’s no massive “Warlock-style” overhaul planned for rogues in the new expansion (roughly the umpteenth time a designer has said that), but that they’re definitely focusing on making each rogue spec feel different to play.
  • Celestalon also confirmed that positional requirements are being removed from abilities like Ambush and Backstab in Warlords/Patch 6.0.
  • He dodged a question about improving rogue AoE damage, subtly implying that it’s unlikely to change.
  • Ghostcrawler reflected back on some rogue-related game design choices, like the move to make Subtlety a more viable PvE spec over the past few years and the ever-controversial-among-a-minority decision to keep combo points stacking on the target (rather than on the rogue directly).
  • PvP maven Brian Holinka suggested that DPS cooldowns like Shadow Dance, which actually change our gameplay while they’re active, are the models they want to hold up as examples as they ponder how to refine cooldowns gamewide for the next expansion. (This makes me suspect that more “boring” cooldowns like Vendetta may not be long for this world, at least not in their current form.)

In the Blogosphere

  • Also more of a “month in rogueball” thing, but OneRogue has been blogging roughly every week or two with personal perspectives on the class, as well as community updates similar to the one you’re reading now. He also recently launched a pretty detailed “Resources” section that links to some of our best go-to spots for class info.

Within the Fora

Actually, I’m still pretty brutally behind on the rogue conversations happening on the official WoW forums, MMO-Champion, ArenaJunkies and the like. If you saw any particularly useful or productive discussions, please give ‘em shoutouts in the comments!

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[UPDATE 9/19: An official hotfix note posted late on Sept. 18 suggests this problem has been fixed. My original post appears below.]

Patch 5.4 brought with it a huge quality-of-life improvement for Combat rogues: the ability to ensure that Killing Spree deals all of its damage to a single target, even when other enemies are within melee range. Unfortunately, it’s not yet Spree-ing as well as intended.

Since the patch landed, a number of folks have taken to the Interwebs (e.g., MMO-Champion, official forums) to point out moments when they’ve tried to use Killing Spree and have been unable to — not because of traditional reasons, like sudden horrible terrifying death, but because the game was telling them they were too far away from their target. A few players have reported seeing this error on the Galakras fight in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, even though they’re close enough to the boss to be actively stabbing it in its bodily areas with their autoattacks.

The bulk of the complaints appear to stem from attempts to use the single-target form of Killing Spree, which occurs when Blade Flurry is turned off. This makes sense, what with that mechanic being new and all. I did a smidge of testing on the PTR during today’s maintenance, and found that I had to move closer to a target dummy in order to activate KS if Blade Flurry was off. (My personal theory — shared by a few others — is that single-target KS isn’t correctly handling a target’s hitbox, a.k.a. the distance you can be from the target and still hit it with melee attacks.)

A few players have also reported seeing errors when they try to use single-target KS on a target that’s slightly above or below them, though claims of this have been more spotty (probably in part because raid fights take place on level ground).

Fortunately, the Big Guns appear to be working on at least part of the problem:

Clearly, single-target KS wasn’t nearly as simple a mechanic to implement on the back end as it might seem to many of us on our side of the game. (“What? Just make it hit our current target. How hard could that be?”) Hopefully these teleport issues won’t prove too much of a beast to address.

Combat has long suffered somewhat as a raid and PvP spec due in large part to Killing Spree’s fragility, though before now those problems tended to revolve around either 1) the inability to focus on a single target (now resolved) or 2) the teleport mechanic itself leaving a rogue dead or trapped (not-so-resolved). Between these issues with the new KS and the issues I mentioned earlier with Ruthlessness, the Combat spec isn’t getting any favors as it strives to reach equal footing with Assassination in the final raid tier of the expansion.

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After a series of vacations and international trippin’, Ghostcrawler returned to his regularly scheduled Twittercast this week, addressing questions and feedback on a wide range of WoW gameplay topics. On the rogue front, he responded to lamentations that the rogue class is being ignored, gave one of his most detailed hints yet about how he’d like to make our specs more different, and addressed concerns about Combat rogues in end-game PvE.

“Pretty Happy With Rogues”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this statement cause some garment-rending; it can easily be interpreted as flippant or dismissive. But keep in mind the many, many, many things Ghostcrawler has said recently about rogue class issues, including this exchange last night:

[NOTE 8/7/13: Since this initial exchange, GC has had some additional back-and-forth on Twittsville; I'll write a new blog post about it soon and link it from here, but in the meantime you can see the full "thread" over on my rogue tweet page.]

What this amounts to is:

  • As Blizzfolk have stated many times (most famously last summer, when GC called rogues the “best designed class”), they like the way our resource system works (earn combo points with small things that use energy, spend them on bigger things that use less energy); that’s not on the table for an overhaul, and they’ve got no plans to make each spec “work” differently in that respect.
  • As Blizzfolk have also stated many times during Mists, they understand — and agree with — the common complaint that specs have become too similar, and they plan to address it. Just not in the middle of an expansion, since that would likely confuse the thousands upon thousands of rogue players who may not be thrilled to see their gameplay suddenly turned upside-down.
  • Yes, Blizzfolk are actually listening, and yes, they actually care, and yes, they actually discuss and debate about these issues. There just isn’t necessarily a simple or obvious solution to the problem, no matter how many of us may believe we personally know exactly what the simple, obvious solution is.

Combat Spec in 5.4: We’re Not Done Yet

(The “ST” in that tweet stands for “single target,” not “Shuriken Toss,” in case you were confused. :) )

This question, and GC’s response, pretty nicely encapsulate the conversation many raiding rogues have been having about how our three specs have performed throughout most of this expansion. Assassination has shined basically from the moment Mists launched; it’s pretty consistently been the top-performing melee DPS spec, and on many fights it’s been right up there with the top specs overall.

By comparison, Combat and Subtlety have both languished in end-game obscurity. Combat had its moment in the sun on the first raid fight of the expansion (Stone Guard), where its two-target cleave absolutely blew all other DPS out of the water — so much so that the designers realized it was finally time to change the way the ability worked. So they did. Since then, its special niche largely removed, the spec has been selected by relatively few high-end raiders.

Subtlety, meanwhile, perennially suffers from two main issues in raids: One, the spec has the widest “skill gap” — meaning the difference between playing it well and playing it poorly is larger than for the other two specs. And two, the positional requirement of Backstab, which two prominent PvE rogues (Fierydemise, Haileaus) recently blogged about.

With the tuning phase of the Patch 5.4 PTR likely to begin within the next few weeks, we should start to see theorycrafters picking apart the numbers and calculating how competitive Combat and Subtlety will be, on paper, to King Mut in the upcoming raid tier. There are a lot of variables at play here: DPS potential isn’t just about simulations, it’s also about how our funky new Tier 16 set bonuses will work, and about our wacky new trinkets, and about how many of the Siege of Orgrimmar raid fights are designed in a way that’s more “friendly” to one spec than another. So don’t expect any quick or easy verdicts.

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For once, I don’t have 1,500 words to say about something a Blizzard developer recently said about rogues. Please don’t be too disappointed in me.

The “a lot” that Ghostcrawler is referring to may include this recent thread over in the EU WoW forums, in which a player tongue-in-cheekishly (I think) proposed eliminating Recuperate entirely and replacing it with a range of enhancements to our first-aid skill. Blizz Community Manager Taepsilum was so moved by the conversation that he felt compelled to respond with his personal support. For a Recuperate buff, I mean, not for the bandaging thing:

Personally, the healing effect of recuperate does seems a bit underwhelming to me, and fitting it into the rotation doesn’t feel as rewarding as it used to during Cata. As always, we’ll make sure to share your concerns with the dev team.

Clearly, those concerns appear to have been shared. :)

Complaints about the power of Recuperate stretch back about as far as the ability has existed — as have calls for it to be buffed or nerfed depending on who’s doing the calling. The recent adjustments to PvP Power and Battle Fatigue may have pushed things to a new tipping point, though, with players offering detailed arguments to support the contention that Recup is distinctly too weak despite getting a boost from the new bonus on PvP gloves.

I’m starting to get my first tinge of a sense that Patch 5.4 may provide at least a minor reprieve to PvP rogues who feel that 5.3 went too far in reversing the gains 5.2 had brought.

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The extraordinary Cynwise published his latest class distribution numbers over the weekend; let’s take a quick look at the rogue bits.

I very much recommend reading Cynwise’s summary of the new data, in which he takes snapshots of various class-population measurements on U.S./EU servers at the start of Patch 5.3 and compares them to earlier patches (and expansions). There are oodles of charts and lots of numbers and it’s all very overwhelming for a former English major like me, but there are several key takeaway points worth noting:

  • At the start of Patch 5.3, 6.2% of toons at max level were rogues. That’s up from 5.8% at the start of Patch 5.2, but still the lowest percentage of any class other than monks.
  • Not including monks, rogues were the least-popular class in heroic raids and the second-least-popular class in competitive arena (after hunters). It may be that the PvP overbuffing we got for Patch 5.2 wasn’t around long enough to seriously alter rogue representation in arena, although it does look like the proportion of arena players who were rogues did increase quite a bit. (It’s just that the percentage was so low to begin with that increasing the proportion “quite a bit” still wasn’t enough to make them objectively “popular.”)
  • Despite their low overall representation, rogue popularity at endgame grew more than any other class except monks during Patch 5.2. The number of level-90 rogues jumped 32%. (They just appear not to be finding their way into heroic raids or arena as frequently as other classes.)
  • The total number of rogue toons in the game (across all levels) dropped during Patch 5.2. The drop was slight — only about 1% — but rogues were the only class who saw a reduction in total toon number between the start of Patch 5.2 and the start of Patch 5.3.

And then there’s this (quoting Cynwise):

At all levels, there are more Rogues than Monks, Warlocks or Shaman. There are almost as many Rogues as there are Priests! But Rogues are not making it to level 90. [...]

Some of this might be due to Rogue populations swelling in late Cataclysm for the legendary daggers. A large number of leveling PvP rogues might also account for it? I’m sure that the Rogue community will have much greater insight than I over it.

But right now, Warriors are behind the other hybrids by a little, and Rogues are behind the other pure DPS classes by a lot.


Rogues are more popular than they seem but are struggling to make it to the endgame. Those Rogues who make it to the endgame can do well, but so few of them do compared to everyone else that there’s something abnormal with them. Rogues are less likely to experience Pandaria than any other class, and that is worth investigating.

To illustrate his point, Cynwise showed us this chart:

It shows that, compared to all other classes, people are much less likely to finish leveling a rogue. This made me wonder: Where the heck are they “stopping,” and why?


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The first time I published this new weekly roundup, I proceeded to immediately skip a week. Let’s give this another shot. :)

To make up for lost ground, this recap of what’s up in rogue gameplay and the rogue community covers the past two weeks.

If you feel I missed anything or would like to see additional topics/sites/discussions included in TWIRB, please comment!

In the Live Game

  • Some patch happened or something, I guess? I don’t know, I don’t keep track of such things.
  • Overall, rogues are about the same in PvE post-patch, and are weaker in PvP. How much weaker — and what the result of that will be on rogues’ presence in arena ladders and RBG teams — has yet to shake out. (It’s only been a week and a half, remember.) There’s been a fair amount of new interest in Assassination (and, to a lesser extent, Combat) as specs worth exploring in PvP; more on that below.
  • There have been no reported hotfixes for rogues since the patch launched.
  • There have also been no confirmed bugs, although PvP chief Brian Holinka said they’d look into reports that Shroud of Concealment is failing to properly conceal allies.
  • As with every single patch in the history of patches, there has been a smattering of reports that stealth isn’t working as well post-patch as it was pre-patch. I haven’t seen any kind of consistency to these reports, so if something new *has* gone wrong, it’s likely something pretty obscure.

New PvP Guides & Blog Posts

In just the past few days, a bevy of capable PvP rogues has published or recorded a range of Patch 5.3-ready guides and tutorials:

Theorycrafting and PvE Optimization

Blizzfolk Get Roguey

  • The entire WoW design team answered a range of raiding-oriented questions from Icy Veins. Of particular interest to us (imho) are their comments on the melee DPS role in raids (my rant) and on the success of the Tier 15 four-piece bonus (my summary/analysis).
  • Elsewhere in Blizz interview news, Holinka and Ghostcrawler answered questions from ArenaJunkies’ Vanguards on the PvP changes impacting rogues in 5.3, including the Find Weakness nerf and why rogues were toned down overall.
  • Similarly, Holinka and Ghostcrawler joined the Legendary Webcast by video to discuss, among other things, the rogue PvP balance changes. (Read my summary of both the AJ and Legendary interviews.)
  • EU Community Manager Taepsilum responded to a Recuperate complaint thread in the official WoW forums to say he agreed that the self-heal “seems a bit underwhelming to me, and fitting it into the rotation doesn’t feel as rewarding as it used to during Cata,” and added that he’d bring the issue up with the dev team. (If this perked your ears, it should — we don’t see CMs directly express their views like this very often at all — but it doesn’t mean we should expect to see a change anytime soon. Taepsilum was just expressing his own opinion, and there’s no reason to believe the devs would necessarily agree — or have a solution they like better than the status quo.)

And that’s TWIRB. Or, well, TW(s)IRB; let’s see if I can stick to a weekly schedule with these.

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[UPDATE 5/29: Ghostcrawler responded with a clarification of the Icy Veins interview response; I've added his tweets to the bottom of this post.]

Welcome to today’s edition of WoW’s Developers Used Confusing Wording When Responding to an Interview Question, So Let’s See How Badly We Can Misinterpret It. Our topic for this particular WDUCWWRIQSLSHBWCMI is: the success/failure of the rogue Tier 15 four-piece bonus.

Tier 15 is the raid gear that was introduced in Patch 5.2 with the Throne of Thunder. In the first incarnation we saw on the PTR, the rogue four-piece bonus only reduced by 40% the energy cost of abilities we used during Shadow Blades. The designers listened to player feedback and decided to break one of the game’s basic commandments: “Thy global cooldown shalt not fall below one second, howsoever thee may cryeth about it.”

Yielding to concerns about Combat rogues energy capping if they tried to use Adrenaline Rush with Shadow Blades while the four-piece bonus was active, the designers chose to add to the set bonus a .3-second reduction to our global cooldown. That effectively gave Combat rogues a half-second GCD during Adrenaline Rush + Shadow Blades, thanks to the AdRush glyph that is considered all but required for raiding Combat rogues.

Last week, Icy Veins asked the WoW design team how they felt the experiment turned out. The WoWdevs responded: (more…)

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It’s time for the melee DPS role to be about more than stabbing backs and taking names.

The final looking-back-on-Patch-5.2 WoW designer interview went live on Icy Veins just before the holiday weekend began (don’t they know the rule about trying to get folks to pay attention to news on a Friday?). If you’ve got a passion for end-game raiding, there’s a lot of cool stuff in that interview worth reading — nothing earth-moving or particularly surprising, but we don’t often see WoW designers talk at length about role balance and class mechanics in raids, so this is a rare opportunity to look into the crystal ball and see anything more than clouds.

There are two sections of the Icy Veins interview that I wanted to call particular attention to from a rogue perspective. The first touches on the “ranged-vs.-melee” question in raids and how their respective roles are evolving. (The second touches on our four-piece Tier 15 set bonus; I’ll talk about that in my next post.)

From the interview:

Icy Veins: In the past, melee DPS were seen as having a significant disadvantage in heroic raiding. During Throne of Thunder, however, there are some fights where melee do very well, like Iron Qon, and others where they do really poorly, like Ra-Den. Are you happy with each having their own niche fights, or is it a goal of yours to design fights where both range and melee players will perform roughly the same?

Blizzard: Overall we like for there to be fights that favor different play styles. In Throne of Thunder, there are good fights for range and good fights for melee, and nobody is underperforming to the degree where it is widespread for guild to sit a lot of melee on one fight or a lot of ranged on the next. We agree in previous tiers that melee felt like more of a liability, but we don’t feel that way about the current content (but see the next question).

Icy Veins: Does granting range players the ability to retain more and more damage on the move (as illustrated by the upcoming Lightning Bolt changes in 5.3) make it harder and harder to design encounters where melee DPS are not trailing behind?

Blizzard: Traditionally, the melee advantage was being able to do damage while moving, but now a lot of ranged are also good at movement. We could certainly go back in and prune a lot of cast-on-the-move and instant spells from casters, but on the other hand we know players think those abilities are fun and you can even argue that having to stand and “turret” as a combat mechanic feels a little dated. There is also a continuum here: casting Lightning Bolt while moving isn’t a big balance problem, but something like passive Kil’jaeden’s Cunning might be.

Rather than making casters terrible at moving, we’d rather develop a niche that melee are really good at. For example, we could emphasize that melee are really good at cleaving multiple targets, or they could be more survivable, or both. We are going to explore these ideas more.

I agree that the “turret” approach to damage-dealing no longer makes sense within the context of WoW — or possibly within the context of any complex MMORPG. Only being able to do serious damage while standing still is not a fun way to play a class, especially in a game as fast-paced and movement-based as WoW tends to be. The must-stand-still requirement also severely inhibits the creativity raid designers can use when crafting new encounters. I embrace the growing trend of ranged classes evolving a greater ability to deal damage on the run, most recently embodied in Shamans’ Lightning Bolt spell being castable while moving in 5.3.

At the same time, if we look at raiding rogues in particular, we haven’t seen — and perhaps we *can’t* see — a similar shift in range/movement flexibility. Yes, the designers have tinkered with stealth speed, Sprint and Shadowstep (and they’ve introduced a worthwhile alternative, Burst of Speed, as well as a formerly-borderline-superior-but-now-extremely-niche alternative in Cloak and Dagger). They’ve also made case-by-case adjustments to boss fights to make it easier for us to hurt them (e.g., making their hitbox larger, or increasing the angle at which we’re technically “behind” them). But these are largely tweaks, bandages and temporary solutions to a bigger, much more intractable issue: When a rogue isn’t within melee range of its target, the player pulling that rogue’s strings is most likely not having much fun.

We can’t, and shouldn’t, expect for every raid fight to be equally rogue-friendly. We *want* variety in our raid mechanics, and if we accept that, then we have to also accept that “variety” is going to include various levels of challenge in us maintaining uptime on our targets.

But there is a difference between a fight that is rogue-unfriendly and a fight that is borderline infuriating for a rogue. Hardly a raid tier goes by without at least one fight that literally murders a Combat rogue who dares to use Killing Spree, one of the spec’s core DPS cooldowns (and, importantly, one of the most fun cooldowns we have when it works properly). And if you had the pleasure of experiencing the Twilight Ascendant Council fight during Cataclysm, then you know what it’s like to spend an encounter doing your impression of chasing after Benny Hill.

This expansion has been better than the last one, to be sure. There are no fights yet in Mists where rogues perform atrociously relative to other classes (the extent to which we may struggle to shine on fights like Council of Elders falls within my range of acceptable variance for the sake of raid mechanic variety), and it’s nice to see design decisions like what was done for the Durumu maze, in which there is both a melee path and a ranged path to allow all DPS to continue dealing damage while weaving their way through trouble.

Meanwhile, our class has gotten a major survivability boost this expansion thanks to the available-to-all-classes combination of Feint (50% reduction to AoE damage) and Elusiveness (30% across-the-board damage reduction during Feint), which can drastically reduce the burden we place on our healers during heavy-damage moments while only costing us a small amount of DPS. And in Patch 5.2, Smoke Bomb was also given some raid utility in the form of an AoE damage reducer. Both of these changes fit with the theme the developers stated above: Trying to offset ranged classes’ additional mobility by giving melee some *unique* tools that provide demonstrable raid utility.

I like this direction. I think our instinct might be to call for 1) harder-hitting melee abilities or 2) more mobility (i.e., additional/more powerful gap closers) to make up for us losing ground to ranged classes in the uptime-on-target category. But to me, that’s not a fun solution. I want raiding with my rogue to be about more than just stabbing a boss repeatedly for six minutes using a set rotation of abilities. I want to be challenged, and I want to have to spend (a reasonable amount of) time off my target every now and then — but I want that to be offset by the greater feeling of fulfillment that comes from bringing more to the table than my DPS.

What if the change to Smoke Bomb were just the beginning? What if we gained a whole host of powerful, but niche, raid uses for our abilities? What if Cheat Death were redesigned into a baseline cooldown that could be cast on yourself — or on an ally — once every five minutes? What if we (and warriors) could use Dismantle on raid bosses once per fight, similarly to how other classes can use battle res? What if Feint temporarily increased our crit by a percentage of the incoming damage we reduced? What if Tricks of the Trade didn’t just transfer threat to our target — what if it also transferred the effects of any defensive cooldowns we used while the buff was active, such as Evasion and Cloak of Shadows?

The days of pigeonholing classes into single roles with narrow definitions of “success” need to be over with. MMOs like WoW — and the people who play them — have matured past that point. For a class like ours, DPS should always be relevant and important, but it’s time we moved on from the idea that we somehow deserve to be the DPS kings in raids because we’re so handicapped in other areas. It’s time we instead called for those handicaps to be removed or altered in ways that make rogues as a class, and melee as a role, feel unique, more compelling to play and genuinely useful in ways it’s never felt in raids before.

At the same time, it’s time for WoW’s designers to truly practice what they preach. Developers such as Ghostcrawler are fond of chastising players for paying so much attention to DPS meters, and rightly so. But they’ve provided so few alternatives for us to feel *tangibly* valuable in raids outside of damage-dealing that it’s no wonder we continue to latch onto our DPS performance as our only real measure of success. In last week’s Icy Veins interview, they promised to explore new niches in which melee could be valuable. Let’s hope they really push the envelope, take some risks and get creative in doing so for the next expansion.

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In the run-up to Patch 5.3’s launch this week, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street and Brian “Holinka” Holinka, among other senior WoW designers, have been making the round on various fansites to preview the patch and explain their thinking behind many of the changes in store.

The Arena Junkies interview with GC and Holinka, which posted over the weekend, includes a few highly rogue-relevant bits, as does today’s interview with Gary Gannon and Olivia Grace on a special episode of’s Legendary. Notable roguey excerpts are copied below. (In the case of the Gamebreaker interview, the transcription is mine, since the source is a video. The AJ transcript excerpts will be copy-pasted as-is from AJ’s site.)

The Find Weakness Change: Making Spells Different in PvE/PvP (Arena Junkies)

(I ranted about this one early this morning.)

Sam: PvE and PvP changes seem to collide very often, do you guys believe that balancing both may require a lot of specific PvP and PvE only changes? An example would be Find Weakness in 5.3.

Brian: Yes, and when we do it. Find weakness is a great example where PvE needed a buff and it would’ve cost big problems to PvP. We keep it in mind and Frost bomb is another example. We try not to do it too often, it’s a lot of things to keep track of. We’re the designers and people on Arena Junkies are really passionate players that really keep up on all the changes, but a lot of players are not. To ask our general player base that your spell does this and it does half damage or 25% or something like that, it’s really not something we want to do too often. Especially hey we want eviscerate to hit 10% less on players. That’s really inconsistent and a tough thing. We usually do it when it’s really a significant thing such as Find Weakness is 50% less and Frost bomb is 40% less.

Greg: There’s also this persistent, I’ll just call it a myth, that if we just bite the bullet and make 2 versions of every spell suddenly we’ll have class balance nailed and it’ll never be a problem again. I’m pretty confident if we went ahead and split sub rogues into 2 abilities on every ability with different damage numbers you’ll still see players saying why they can’t just tune down this one ability that’s costing pvp burst problem. In other words players will still want us to make changes even if we have the numbers split up, I don’t think it’ll suddenly make players feel their class is viable in every situation

Why Rogues Are Being Nerfed (Arena Junkies)

Sam: In the history of changes a lot of nerfs and buffs are really large, which usually changes the “balance” of one class from one to another such as warrior and rogues last patch. Warriors were arguably the top notch class in 5.2 but kind of went to the bottom barrel. Rogues basically had the opposite happen to them. Do you guys think smaller changes would be more ideal or how would you look at it?

Brian Holinka: Obviously when we can we would like to make smaller changes. I think what you saw with rogues in 5.2 was that there were a lot of calls for their survival to be improved. So we made Prep baseline, took Cloak off, so they weren’t constantly unpeelable for 12 seconds, and moved it to a short CD. I think these were good changes, but what pushed rogues over the edge was we tried to create some talents to make them more attractive and give them variety. Shuriken Toss, Mark for Death, and Cloak and Dagger, those were all probably a little bit too much. 5.3 Rogues were really about reigning in those talent changes. We kept the survivability changes the same but we wanted to reign in the unpeelable Cloak and Dagger, the ranged play style of Shuriken Toss, and those were I think really smart changes. We didn’t also nerf Mark for Death and a bunch of other changes. The Find Weakness change was mainly for burst on higher armor targets. We thought that wasn’t appropriate. We made some changes in 5.2 that didn’t mean to be buffs, but for talent choices to be more interesting and we needed to reign those in.

Revisiting Rogue Talents for PvP: 5.2 and 5.3 (Legendary)

Gary Gannon: How do you feel the [PvP class] balance has been in 5.2?


Brian Holinka: I think there were some situations where we were trying to make some talents more interesting from 5.1 to 5.2. For example [...] there was a rogue ability called Versatility, and it was not really seeing much play. So we created a new one called Marked for Death. In other situations, like, for instance: [...] Preparation was another ability that we actually thought all rogues could benefit from having. So there we had to create a new one, Cloak and Dagger.

So, we were doing a lot of talent work, and in some places, we just overshot a bit. We felt like it made some classes a little bit too good and the talents were just a little bit too good, so we tried to rein those in.

We base our balance feedback on a lot of factors: We look at representations; distribution of ratings across all specs and classes; how people are faring within our team, how they’re playing; we talk to some of the very high level players on a very constant basis. We try and get a sense of where problems lie, and then we try and fix things that we feel are big problems for the overall gameplay of the game — where it just makes everybody’s life a little bit less fun — and we try and affect those.

There’s situations where maybe you can say this or that has made this class even more competitive, but there’s also situations where this talent is just one-shotting people. So we have to look at that, and we have to understand that it’s made the game less fun to play.

Our goals are basically: try and make specs and classes competitive; try and make the overall gameplay environment fun; and then, we wanna say, try and make some talents interesting, and try and make rotations interesting and fun to play. Sometimes we make changes that are a little bit out of priority there, but that’s generally what we try to do. And I think, going in from 5.2 to 5.3, that was a lot of our goal, was to kind of rein in some of the things that got out of control.

Though these three chunks were especially rogue-directed, large sections of both interviews are likely to be of great interest to any PvPing rogue, so be sure to read/tune in to them for a more complete discussion of upcoming changes — and some changes potentially in store for 5.4 and beyond.


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For once, the ginormous pit of nothingness that is my WoW PvP experience may actually be a good thing.

As I have often stated on this blog, I am a PvP wuss. Although I’ve dabbled in it a few times during the 4.5 years I’ve been playing WoW, I’ve inevitably quit for two primary reasons:

  • The feeling that I’m actively playing against other human beings, most of whom probably know what they’re doing a hell of a lot better than me, makes me crap my pants a little. OK, a lot. And I only have so much money to spend on pants in a given year.
  • That feeling is reinforced by all the times I feel like I’m maybe actually doing things kinda-sorta right, and yet I still am getting my ass handed to me by someone who simply outgears me.

For the first time since I started playing, I feel like a PvP-related patch is actually speaking directly at me. “Hey, Rfeann,” it’s saying. “Don’t be afraid, man. It’s cool. You can come back in the water again. I swear the crocodiles aren’t… well, OK, they’re still there, and they REALLY want to eat you. Like, they’ve already drawn up a whole 10-course tasting menu based around your various internal organs. But their teeth are blunter, so it’s totally cool. Just take a quick dip, maybe?”

And I’m gonna do it. It helps that, shortly after the patch drops, I’ll be starting the part of the legendary quest chain that involves some battleground play; that’ll be my opportunity to dive back in and see how bloody I get.

I’ve got hope that the main systemic PvP changes in store for 5.3 — in particular, resilience going baseline and PvP gear being scaled and removed from the upgrade system — will make it less likely that I’ll find myself demoralized and obliterated in the blink of an eye by ubergeared players who are salivating at the chance to chop off my arm, beat me to death with it and then carry it with them over to the graveyard so that when I respawn, the first thing I will see is my own arm giving me the middle finger as I’m instantly murdered again.

The question is: Are these changes going to be enough to make me *stick with* PvP long enough to get over the other problem I listed above: That I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and am intimidated by all those other players who do?

Two of WoW’s leading design folks, the ever-present Twittermongers Brian Holinka (PvP chief) and Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street (lead systems designer human guy person), were recently interviewed by ArenaJunkies’ Sam “Vanguards” Kwok about the big changes in store for Patch 5.3. Included in the interview is this exchange, which drives straight to the heart of my lingering worry over PvP design:

Sam: PvE and PvP changes seem to collide very often, do you guys believe that balancing both may require a lot of specific PvP and PvE only changes? An example would be Find Weakness in 5.3.

Brian: Yes, and when we do it. Find weakness is a great example where PvE needed a buff and it would’ve cost big problems to PvP. We keep it in mind and Frost bomb is another example. We try not to do it too often, it’s a lot of things to keep track of. We’re the designers and people on Arena Junkies are really passionate players that really keep up on all the changes, but a lot of players are not. To ask our general player base that your spell does this and it does half damage or 25% or something like that, it’s really not something we want to do too often. Especially hey we want eviscerate to hit 10% less on players. That’s really inconsistent and a tough thing. We usually do it when it’s really a significant thing such as Find Weakness is 50% less and Frost bomb is 40% less.

Greg: There’s also this persistent, I’ll just call it a myth, that if we just bite the bullet and make 2 versions of every spell suddenly we’ll have class balance nailed and it’ll never be a problem again. I’m pretty confident if we went ahead and split sub rogues into 2 abilities on every ability with different damage numbers you’ll still see players saying why they can’t just tune down this one ability that’s costing pvp burst problem. In other words players will still want us to make changes even if we have the numbers split up, I don’t think it’ll suddenly make players feel their class is viable in every situation

I’ve seen this argument many, many times over the past few years, from designers and players alike. It used to make a lot more sense to me then that it does now. There is a perpetual, stated reluctance within the WoW design team to create PvP and PvE versions of every spell, and the justification given is concern that 1) it’ll be confusing for players and 2) it won’t necessarily solve balance issues.

Those are both valid concerns. But here’s the thing: I am *already* confused out of my gourd by the difference between PvE and PvP. They are, at the most basic level of gameplay, utterly and completely divergent from one another. When I am fighting another player, virtually *none* of the rules apply that apply when I’m questing, dungeoning or raiding. A player enemy has a different health pool from an NPC. Has a different toolkit. Has different strengths and weaknesses — and those strengths and weaknesses vary depending on the person’s class, spec and knowledge/experience level. And a player enemy is often impossible to predict, particularly for a casual player like me with very little PvP experience.

And on top of all of that, the spells that really matter are *already* entirely different for PvP than PvE. To know that — and to have my brain turn to mush right out the gate — I don’t need to look any further than my crowd control spells. Not only do they have a fraction of their duration in PvP than they do in PvE (Blind: one minute? nope: EIGHT SECONDS), but they also are affected by diminishing returns, which is a stunningly intricate, exceedingly complex system that I’m pretty sure works more or less like this:

      I open from stealth with a stun. You are stunned! Take that, nefarious ne’er-do-well!
      The stun ended, but I don’t like it when you move. I stun you again! Ha, pusillanimous pig! I shall perforate you with my pointy petards of piercing!
      Oh, crap, you came out of that quicker than I expected. Now you’re hurting me. I’m going to Blind you and get some distance. Look at me, I am so clever!
      Wait, that didn’t work at all. You’re still hurting me, and now someone’s laughing at me in BG chat because they said I can’t use Blind on someone who was just feared three times in a row.

Arm removal aside, I realize that’s probably not the most realistic example, but I wanted to break up this long-ass blog post with something listy. :) My point is: There are so many types of CC — and what shares diminishing returns with what and for how long feels so arcane, inaccessible and difficult to track — that it’s all a huge confusing jumble in my head. Which is bad, because as a rogue, I know CC is my PvP livelihood, and driving other people mad in battlegrounds seems like it’d be a lot of fun if I knew what the heck I was doing.

But I don’t. For me, PvE and PvP are already vastly different from one another. So, when I read that designers are reluctant to alter the amount of damage a specific ability does in PvE because it’d be different from PvP, it almost makes me laugh. I think: Do those guys think I’d even *notice* something like that?

Top PvPers would notice it, sure — it would be *huge* for them. But they already know PvP inside and out as it is; they will adjust to a change the same way raiders adjust to changes, by factoring it in, adapting and moving on (or complaining about it endlessly in forums and on Twitter).

Me? I’m still too busy trying to remember whether it’s been 18 seconds or 14 seconds since my last stun ended to give a crap whether my Eviscerate will be slightly weaker against a player target than it is against a raid boss who’s three levels higher than me and has 1.2 BILLION health.

So, yes, I’m looking forward to hopefully having my arm handed to me less often when I dip back into the PvP pool once Patch 5.3 launches. But I’ve already spent years trying to master the complexities of end-game *PvE* on my rogue; even if I’m staying alive longer in PvP come 5.3, I’m not sure I’ll have the energy to wrap my brain around that morass of details as well. And the complexities of PvP — which even *casual* players like me need to understand in order to achieve satisfying success — don’t look like they’re changing much anytime soon.

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