Posts Tagged ‘spec differentiation’

Updated Warlords of Draenor alpha notes, a new slew of datamined spell changes, a gaggle of designer tweets: Gee golly, it’s almost enough to make a person think there’s actually something substantial happening in WoW!

Ah, but no, it’s just another week in virtual purgatory.

Here is what the latest limbo period brought us in the World of Rouge that was mildly distinct from the limbo period before it.

Assassination: All About the Knifejamins

The initial design plan was: Let’s give folks who want to play Assassination, but who don’t have daggers, a chance to still play the spec using other types of pointy things (i.e., fist weapons and swords). But as of the May 23 update to the official alpha patch notes, that plan has been… deplanned. (Sorry for that link; couldn’t resist.)

Yep, all of the bits and pieces that were going to make fists and swords kinda-sorta viable for Mut rogues are gone. The different damage coefficients for Dispatch and Mutilate depending on weapon type, Assassin’s Resolve no longer requiring daggers — all back to the way they were. By which I mean, the way they are now, in Mists.

Here’s why this reversion doesn’t suck:

The primary motivation behind all of the plans to loosen weapon requirements centered around a long-standing issue for rogue players: We have to wield two weapons, and it can often feel hard — heck, sometimes downright unpossible — to get the weapons we need, particularly since there are very few ways to get decent weaponry outside of random-chance boss loot. The tweet above from WoW technical game designer Chadd “Cellartron” Nervig strongly suggests they’ve got a new idea for how to make sure we don’t suffer from Neverdrop, an affliction that I’m this close to asking Sarah McLachlan to write a song about so we can start an aid foundation.

Combat: Smack Harder, Feel Better

It’s been a common refrain, for many moons now, that rogues are heavily reliant on “passive” forms of damage. The definition of “passive” changes a bit depending on who you ask, but there’s pretty wholesale agreement that our autoattack damage — which, as Combat, can easily account for 10%-15% of our damage in a raid fight without even taking into account additional bits like Deadly Poison procs (which adds another 10%+) or the Shadow Blades cooldown (another ~10%) — is just too darn-tootin’ high. That makes the designers feel compelled to reduce the power of our actual button-press abilities (Sinister Strike, Eviscerate, etc.) to compensate.

Behold:

Worth noting here is the removal of Ambidexterity. This was done to reduce the amount of damage coming from auto attacks for Combat Rogues. We’ve increased the damage of their active abilities to compensate and make them more rewarding.

That’s from the latest iteration of the official patch notes. Ambidexterity currently increases Combat rogues’ offhand weapon damage by 75%. By removing it, the proportion of our damage that comes from offhand autoattacks is likely to drop from 10%-15% to something more like 2%-5% — and from the sounds of it, all of that “lost” damage will be funneled into our push-this-button-and-hurt-something-immediately abilities. (The perk formerly named “Improved Ambidexterity” will now be called “Improved Dual Wield”; it will still eliminate the 19% off-hand hit chance penalty.)  Will it be enough to really feel a difference? Only playtesting will be able to tell us for certain.

Combat: If You Prick Them, They Will Bleed

The class design team introduced changes for Warlords that are meant to develop a greater sense of distinctness for each of our three specs. One of their big plans for Combat rogues was to make it so that, at Level 100, *all* damage is instant. No bleeds, no ticking poisons: Everything that would normally deal damage over time would instead dish all of it out immediately.

It’s a cool idea, but not without downsides. For instance, PvP players were quick to point out that removing all damage-over-time spells from Combat would leave those rogues completely unable to prevent nearby enemies in stealth from… you know, being stealthed.

It looks like the designers agreed. Nervig confirmed that, in a reversal, Crimson Tempest will once again trigger a bleed, just as it does in the live game. Nervig’s statement supports datamining that saw the tooltip for the Combat-only leveling perk Empowered Crimson Tempest change from “Crimson Tempest no longer deals any periodic damage, and instead deals 240% increased initial damage,” to, “Increases the duration of Crimson Tempest’s bleed by 50%.” I’ll leave it to rogues smarter than I to determine whether these changes are enough to make CT a more desirable finisher than an unlimited-target Eviscerate with Blade Flurry on.

Bullets

And now, the miscellany:

  • So many datamined changes; so little takeaway: A new datamined Warlords alpha build generated a flurry of knee-jerk complaints about widespread nerfs, due to what appeared to be attack-power-multiplier reductions for a whole slew of rogue abilities. The thing is: You can’t nerf what doesn’t exist yet, and we’re not even at a publicly available alpha. The designers have a goal in mind when it comes to how different classes, and different abilities, will stack up against each other in Warlords. So it’s quite literally pointless to compare “then” numbers vs. “now” numbers, because the entire equation is changing. (It also wasn’t just rogues affected by these changes.)
  • Rupture multi-DoT-ting: Nervig affirmed that the way Assassination rogues currently fight multiple enemies (i.e., they keep Rupture rolling on several targets at once, in order to keep energy flowing in from Venemous Wounds) is not the strategy they had in mind for the spec. The design team wants to change this for Warlords.
  • Rupture big. Rupture hurt. Also in bleeding news, Nervig acknowledged that a design goal is to give Rupture a big damage boost in the upcoming expansion — but that finding the right balance for it is proving tricky.
  • Death From Above clarifications: There’s been a lot of skepticism expressed by players that we’ll have little reason to choose the Level 100 talent Death From Above over the other two options in that tier, LemonVenom Zest and Shadow Reflection. Nervig tweeted that DFA would be made more attractive by making it end with an Envenom/Eviscerate that is 50% more powerful than using En/Ev by itself would be.
  • Show me the poisons! One particular tweeter has been nudging designers for months now about giving rogues a way to display poison effects on their weapons. The response, consistently: A fine idea, but not on the priority list.

For a complete rundown of all upcoming rogue-related Warlords changes, there’s no better place on the Web to turn than Wowhead’s compendium. I know I sound like a cheesy advertisement saying that, but it’s an amazing resource. Use it. :)

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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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Homogenization: It’s not just for milk anymore. Or so the wails of many a rogue this expansion would have us believe.

But in the Mists era, have our three rogue specs truly lost all of their unique flair?

In the context of a thread that discussed class uniqueness more generally, Blizz Community Manager Daxxarri (who has been known to prowl the WoW rogue class forum in the guise of a stealthy Protoss) took a detour to specifically address a person who asked why all rogue specs feel the same:

Rogues are something of an edge case, and moving previously spec defining abilities into the talent tree probably contributes to this, though I’d argue that it’s resulted in a class that’s more fun to play overall. Still, I find that Combat feels different from Assassination feels different from Sub. The differences are admittedly more subtle (no pun intended) than some other classes, though.

It’s Daxxarri’s last point that, for me, gets to the heart of this particular issue. He concedes the point made by many that what “feels” different about each rogue spec can be hard to tease out. But depending on how each of us plays, and on what particular characteristics of a class/spec are most important to us, the three rogue specs can be either glaringly different or impossible to tell apart.

(more…)

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The Twitxchange with Ghostcrawler below pokes at an issue I’m still working through: How “different” should the three rogue spec rotations feel in PvE?

 

 

This back-and-forth is part of the much larger exchange of tweets we’ve seen about the upcoming Blade Flurry changes in Patch 5.2, which started out as a flat 75% copied-damage reduction and currently stands as a 60% reduction that will now apply to as many as four nearby targets instead of just one.

The final point Ghostcrawler makes in the exchange above raises what, for me, is an intriguing question over how important it is that our three rogue specs have different rotations. Combat’s upcoming Blade Flurry changes will further entrench three surprisingly different AoE damage approaches for the three specs:

  • Assassination: Fan of Knives + Tab-Rupture (keeping the bleed on multiple targets to maximize energy regen for more FoKs)
  • Combat: Blade Flurry (plus Killing Spree and AdRush for fun burst)
  • Subtlety: Fan of Knives + Crimson Tempest (still amazing to type that; it’s an all-AoE rotation! for a ROGUE!)

I realize there’s room for debate over the optimal AoE “rotation” for Assassination (i.e., whether/when Slice and Dice and Envenom should come into play), but we’re still talking three distinct approaches. If making the rogue specs “feel” different in multi-target situations was a design goal, 5.2 will mark a huge success.

The ultimate rogue rotation: Set it and forget it!

But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, and ask: What’s the point of this success? (I had originally written a paragraph here arguing that the three specs have distinctly different single-target rotations as well, but it got too bogged down in specifics and I drifted away from this central question, so I may save that for another day.) Why is it so important that the rogue *rotations* — be they single-target or multi-target — be different from spec to spec? How is that a valuable intrinsic quality of the class?

I realize there are a fair number — maybe even a large number — of rogue players out there who are steadfastly loyal to a particular spec. Whether it’s the playstyle or the (loosely associated) lore, they identify themselves by the spec as much as the class as a whole. They’re not just rogues — they’re *Combat* (or Mut, or Sub) rogues.

But what is it that makes a *player* a Combat (or whatever) rogue? If you ask players to list the qualities of their favorite spec, how many will focus on mechanics — the ability to toggle Killing Spree, the fun of using Shadow Dance, the sheer thrill that comes with the knowledge that 40% of your damage comes passively from Deadly Poison? (Sorry, sorry — couldn’t help it. Assassination is actually my favorite spec.)

Or is the answer to the question a little more emotional, more aesthetic, than that? I don’t prefer Assassination because I think Envenom is a clever way to actively increase our passive damage (oops, paradox) and separate less-skilled players from more skilled players. (Actually, I think Assassination fails to deliver on that front, but that’s another topic.) Or because I like the incorporation of Rupture for energy regen. Or because I think Vendetta is a fun cooldown. Or because of *any* particular ability or talent.

Assassination: Little. Yellow. Different.

No, I like Assassination the most because it “feels” different. Mutilate is the most expensive CP builder we have; as a result, Assassination has the slowest rotation by far, because a chunk of time is often spent waiting for energy to regen so we can Mutilate again. And I *like* that. It gives me time to look at what’s happening in the raid around me, to think more about where I’m standing and where I should be standing (and where I’ll need to be standing in a few seconds). I’ve always felt that the weaving of Mutilates, well-timed Envenoms and Ruptures makes the Assassination rotation feel like a dance — ironic, since Subtlety is the spec that actually has a (Shadow) Dance in it.

But despite that, I don’t consider myself an “Assassination rogue.” If the Assassination spec were to lose that “dance” feel, I wouldn’t suddenly stop playing the class. I’m a WoW player who enjoys playing a rogue more than other classes primarily because of the stealth/strategy component, not because of how particular mechanics play. And I worry that, if Blizzard devs continue to prioritize efforts to define and balance what essentially is three distinct rogue *classes* — each with its own unique mechanics — that we’re not going to get back to a place where rogues as a whole feel fresh and distinct. We can’t, because we’re too busy trying to tease out what’s fresh and distinct between each individual spec — as well as maintaining balance not only between the three rogue specs, but between rogues and other classes on the whole.

I’m not sure whether this makes me a fan of the idea of having only a single rogue DPS spec for the entire class, or whether it just means I wish that aesthetics, not mechanics, could be all that truly defines the differences between the specs. (Combat’s unique ability to dual-wield slow weapons would be one example here.) I just know that I’m not comfortable with the idea that each rogue spec has to have its mechanical niche. I worry that class design and balance suffer as a result.

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