RoS Gear Basics — Addendum on Enchanting

My last post discussed the basics of picking gear in the Loot 2.0 system. It emphasized that a max level character can be geared up rapidly with good rares if you know what to look for and make use of the enchanting system. I want to add a few small points that can make a big difference in how effectively you can use enchanter, especially with limited resources.

A rare item has up to 4 primary affixes and 2 secondary, as discussed before. Each slot has a pool of primary affixes from which it can draw its 4. This is a helpful resource I linked before to see what they are. When you enchant a primary stat, the item can draw the new stat from the usual primary pool (you can click the “?” icon at the enchanter to see all the possibilities in advance). However, the full array of possible affixes is not always available, because certain affixes are mutually exclusive.

In particular, an item can’t have two +skill bonuses or two +element bonuses. So when enchanting a particular stat, if one of the other stats being left on the item is a +skill or +element affix, all of those will be removed from the enchanting pool. This can be used to your advantage when enchanting. Conversely, if an item does not have a +skill or +element affix (except possibly for the one being enchanted), and those are available in the slot, there will be a very long list of possible reforges. This works against you, even if it’s not the +skill or +element that you’re going for. In that situation you might reconsider enchanting the item unless you are willing to spend a large amount of gold and materials rolling the stat you want out of a large pool.

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Reaper of Souls Gear Basics

Edit: added a little bit more to this, in a separate post here

The “Loot 2.0″ system that is the centerpiece of Diablo 3 2.0 makes acquiring gear both more fun and more interesting. The addition of a few new stats, and the enchanting system in particular, means that a little bit of understanding of the system goes a long way in helping you gear up quite quickly once you hit max level. I’ll first give an overview of important stats, and then some practical tips on how to go about putting it all together. In particular, the “Damage” and “Toughness” scores, while they have their uses in making evaluations, can limit your gear progress if you rely on them too much without understanding the underlying stats.

Offensive Stats

Your character sheet’s “damage” score takes into account your weapon damage, primary stat (“Main”), crit chance (“CC”), crit damage (“CD”), and attack speed (“IAS”) bonuses. Since all damaging skills also scale with those stats (some exceptions for IAS, see below) it is a good starting proxy for how much damage you can output. However, there are some important reasons not to simply rely on the Damage score when looking for upgrades. Here are the most prominent ones:

  1. The “[Element] skills deal X% more damage” affix. This works exactly as advertised, and if your build does most of its damage with skills of a particular element, adds a lot of damage that’s not reflected on your character sheet. This gives a strong incentive in Reaper of Souls to try to choose builds that focus on one elemental damage type. If you do all your damage with one element, and you mouseover a pair of bracers with +15% to that element, then even if they show a -5% Damage loss in the comparison, you should think of them as a 10% damage upgrade.
  2. The “Increase [Skill] damage by X%” affix. Similarly, you can probably imagine how to use this. It’s sometimes hard to leverage if your damage is spread between a few different skills, but value it highly if you use a certain skill for most of your damage.
  3. IAS is factored directly into your damage score. But depending on your class and build, IAS may be more or less useful to you. If you are primarily resource-capped (if combat often consists of dumping a whole energy bar into an expensive spender such a Frozen Orb), IAS actually does very little for you, as it doesn’t change the number of casts you get before you run out. Similarly if you use a lot of cooldown-based skills. Conversely, if you generally spam a resource generator (Monks, often), IAS could be better than it appears. Don’t rely on the Damage score when evaluating IAS; think about whether attacking faster is useful in your build.
  4. A more subtle version of the IAS issue is weapon speed. A 1.2 speed weapon and a 1.5 speed weapon might do the same DPS, but one hits much harder per swing and the other attacks faster. The same logic from the IAS discussion applies; one or the other may be much better for you even if they have the same Damage score.
  5. Some stats are not reflected at all in Damage; notably, cooldown reduction and resource cost reduction. Many of the types of builds that don’t like IAS like these stats, because they let you use your attacks more often in practice. Don’t worry about the fact that favoring these stats and disfavoring IAS makes your Damage score look lower.
  6. The CC/CD engine. While these are reflected correctly in Damage, that can be deceptive at low gear levels. The value of each of these stats depends on the other one, so when both are low (when you’re just starting out), CC and CD affixes might show up as weak in your Damage score. Trust that once you accumulate enough of both of them, the synergy is very strong, and a key part of doing high damage. Even if CC/CD items look weak at first, consider saving them because the effects will snowball as you get more.

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Behavior of DoTs and Haste in Warlords of Draenor

Among the various bits of mechanical info that’s been revealed about Warlords is the fact DoTs and HoTs will no longer have “haste breakpoints” and will no longer “snapshot” your stats at cast time. Celestalon has mentioned this a few times on twitter and frequently responded to questions about it. Since a lot of people seem to have questions on how the math of this breakpoint-less system will work, I want to to explain some of the behavior that will result from this. First, a brief history of this whole problem.

Current System: Haste Breakpoints and Rounding

Before Cataclysm, haste generally did not affect the rate of DoT ticks. There were a few exceptions, such as the Glyph of Rapid Rejuvenation that caused the tick rate of Rejuvenation to be affected by haste. But this did so by shortening the total duration of the HoT and keeping the number of ticks constant, so it didn’t have to address the big question of DoTs and haste: what do to with the fractional ticks that appear when you do this?

When Cataclysm introduced a general mechanic whereby DoT ticks would be accelerated by haste, it handled this problem by changing the duration of the DoT, rounding it to the nearest integer number of ticks.

To work an example: say a DoT has a 12-second duration and a tick period of 3 seconds. Unhasted, when you cast the DoT, a 12-second debuff appears on the target, and the 4th tick will occur exactly as the debuff expires. If you add 25% haste, the tick period will decrease to 2.4 seconds (3/1.25). Since 5 ticks at 2.4 seconds is exactly 12, you will still get a 12-second debuff when you cast the DoT, and now it will be the 5th tick that occurs as the debuff expires. But what if you only had 20% haste? Now the tick period is 2.5 seconds (3/1.2). Since there is no system in place for handling partial ticks, the game can either give you:

  • A 4-tick DoT that lasts 10 seconds, or
  • A 5-tick DoT that lasts 12.5 seconds.

In fact, you get the latter. The game rounds to the closest whole number of ticks, and since in this example, the 5-tick option is closer to the default duration of 12, that’s what you get.

Finally, if you had 12.5% haste, the tick rate would be 2.667. So a 4-tick DoT would be 10.67 seconds, and a 5-tick DoT would be 13.33 seconds. These are equidistant from 12, and this is the oft-discussed “breakpoint.” At any higher amount of haste, you get 5 ticks, and at any lower amount, you get 4.

DoThaste1

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“The Proven Healer” — Advanced Guide for All Classes

This is a supplement to the guide I wrote for Wowhead, meant to include more detailed class-specific info for people trying to find every advantage they can to get their title, or to push beyond it. It’s generally assumed you know the basic info from the guide, but now that I’ve done wave 30 on Endless myself on all the classes, I can say a lot more about exactly what worked well on each.

General

  • Your frames should have an alert for the Chomp debuff, and for Oto’s Shield Wall.
  • Chomp is the trickiest ability to deal with in healer PG. More than ever, you have to stress anticipating and handling it promptly to succeed at Endless. Chomp, more than anything else, punishes you for being behind when it appears. When you’re having a problem with a Chomp wave, figure out what’s happening before the Chomp appears that’s causing people to not be topped off.
  • Macro your interrupt and stunning spells to “/targetexact Large Illusionary Hive-Singer” so you don’t have to worry about targeting.
  • If you’re looking to squeeze out every advantage you can, try using a separate gear set other than your raid set so you can gem differently. At this low ilvl you want to gem Int on every class, which you probably stopped doing in your raid gear.
  • In general, the best item in any slot is a socketed item with an Int socket bonus.
  • In any event, remember to use a hat with a Burning meta, not a legendary.
  • The best trinket after scaling is Relic of Chi-ji, as its stats are disproportionately high for its ilvl. Zen Alchemist Stone (JP upgraded) also has as unusually strong proc. Otherwise, just use passive Int and a good mana proc, like Dysmorphic or Horridon’s.
  • The best cloak is the legendary, even without the proc; it has a few extra stat points.
  • The best possible weapon is a socketed 1H from Throne of Thunder (such as this). This will have both a socket bonus and an Eye of the Black Prince.
  • Professions are mostly neutral since you want the 320 Int from all of them. Engineering is a bit more efficient since you can have it up at the hard beginning of each wave.

Wave Details

The biggest focus of this guide is class-specific cooldown planning. One general point throughout: since each wave is exactly 1 minute long, and most cooldowns are multiples of 1 minute, you have to use them very crisply at the start of the wave (or whatever the planned time is) so future uses aren’t delayed. Here’s an outline of the waves, with some more detailed comments:

  1. Easy. No cooldowns, goal is to save mana and build resources. Good time to practice multiple interrupts on a caster while Ki/Kavan interrupt also.
  2. Hard. Large Hive-Singer, as well as a Large Aqualyte doing heavy tank damage throughout. Ki is usually ready for the opening stun on this LHS. Add your interrupts where you can until it dies, but since it dies first, the tank is a bigger worry in this wave than the group. Being topped off going into wave 3 is important.
  3. Easy but takes care. Chomp is a mechanic that punishes you heavily if you don’t handle it immediately.  Have instants saved for the opening double Chomp. Stunning the first Tunneler before it dies can prevent it from Chomping a second time. If you’re behind during the wave, a possibility is to efficiently keep people alive until combat ends and the Chomps fall off automatically, but this is not as good as handling them quickly.
  4. Medium. Double dispels and heavy tank damage. An explosion due to bad debuff luck won’t kill the group–the main worry is the tank–but you have to top everyone off before wave 5. You specifically don’t want Oto to blow his Shield Wall here, so keep him stable, even using a tank cooldown if needed.
  5. Very Hard. If Large Hive-Singer casts unmolested, he gets people low to set them up for a bad Chomp, right as the Conqueror is Enraging on Oto. Ki won’t always be ready to open on the LHS, so you have to watch it (you can let him interrupt if you see him Shadowstep over). Preventing its first casts and/or using a big cooldown pre-emptively will make sure people aren’t at low HP from two Sonic Blasts at the moment the Tunneler arrives.
  6. Hard. Hectic wave, but the only thing that should wipe you is falling behind on Chomp. Oto takes a lot of damage, and if you let him get low, a Chomp can be really bad.
  7. Easy. Tank cooldown is a good idea, but otherwise you should try to get mana back after 4/5/6. Locking down the Small Hive-Singer saves you a little mana healing the group.
  8. Medium. As long as you have a way to mitigate damage in the opening seconds, this wave is generally manageable. Group CCs and mitigation cooldowns are good. After one Flamecaller is down, there’s little threat of a spike. If you interrupt the furthest Flamecallers so they run towards the AoE clump, the group’s DPS will be better.
  9. Very Hard. The Large Hive-Singer can live a long time, wearing down the group if his casts aren’t interrupted. You want to interrupt him early and often, but keeping him far from the group for a long time can cause them to kill him last. Mix throughput cooldowns and interrupts to deal with the constant damage for as long as he lives. The worst moment is the very start when the first cast happens at the same time as a Chomp–interrupting it and dealing with the Chomp immediately gets you off to a good start.
  10. Easy. All you need here is a tank cooldown. Think about topping off any class resources and saving other cooldowns to start the next cycle.

The general pattern is that the waves that need throughput cooldowns are 2/5/9 with a Large Hive-Singer. Secondary cooldowns are good on 4 and 6. Tank cooldowns at 2, 4 or 5, and 10, and 7 if you can fit it in. An important tank cooldown is Oto’s Shield Wall (2 minutes), which he will use anytime either a Conqueror Enrages or his HP is low. If the latter never occurs, he’ll use it at 2, 5, 7, and 10, which is what you want.

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Healing Theory, Part 6: The Mana Economy

Previous posts in this series can be found here

Much of the focus on this series so far has been on Spirit and mana. Choices surrounding mana are some of the least obvious and most interesting character setup choices in WoW. They allow gear decisions to impact gameplay in a way that is somewhat unique. And, from our current perspective at the end of raiding in Mists, the story of how healing gameplay changed since launch is largely a story about mana. This is particularly interesting because I think, for reasons I discuss below, that the designers tried to avoid allowing healers to reach this point of having such ample mana at the end of Mists, after seeing it happen in Wrath and Catalysm.

This post continues the thoughts of earlier posts in the series, which focused on the difference between cooldown and non-cooldown heals and why that difference is important to an understanding of mana. Here I explore some of the theoretical foundation for that distinction and how it helps us make gear and play decisions.

The Balance Sheet: Mana Assets

One obstacle to understanding mana is that information about your total mana income and expenditures is obscure; in typical play, your only information is how full your bar is at a given moment. But since you spend many bars’ worth of mana in even a short encounter, this look is actually not too informative. For a better understanding of where your mana comes from and where it goes, we want to instead look at an accounting that considers an encounter as a whole.

Let’s work through a example on paper and see how it looks. What we’re looking for here isn’t a set of detailed output numbers, which would be better served by a full-blown spreadsheet like my TreeCalcs, but the overall picture and what it can teach us about the way we think about mana.

The first question is how much total mana I have to spend over the course of an encounter. That depends on many variables, but I’ll illustrate a typical hypothetical example for a 6-minute fight. I might have (values in thousands of mana):

  • 300 (starting mana)
  • 432 (base regen (6000 Mp5) over 6m)
  • 487 (6 minutes of Spirit regen, at 12k Spirit (6768 MP5))
  • 285 (1.61 meta procs per minute, @ 3 Rejuvs (26.1k mana) per proc (with a 13% bonus for bad luck protection))
  • 129 (ilvl 561 Dysmorphic trinket, average value running for 6 minutes at 37.5% haste)
  • 120 (two Innervates at 12k Spirit)
  • 87 (two Mana Tides from a Shaman with 12k Spirit)
  • 18 (regen effect from one Hymn of Hope)
  • 30 (potion)
  • Total: 1888 (1.89 million mana).

Healer Pie

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Raid Awareness is a Learned and Practiced Skill

Italicized quotations throughout are from my old raid leader Sebudai, well-known for his efforts to teach his raiders to be better at playing WoW.

I’ve written many WoW guides over the past years, largely covering the details of min/maxing a particular class, but I always knew I was addressing a narrow slice of what makes a good raider. While there are reasons that players who know the nuances of perfectly optimizing their class’s output and ability use are prized, even they are no substitute for a raider who excels at the most important skill of all: not dying.

Volumes have been written on how to do good DPS, healing, or tanking. If you raid or want to raid at an intermediate or high level, I imagine you have long immersed yourself in that discourse already. There are many reasons why existing WoW guides, forums, and discussions are largely about optimizing those roles. They are the primary way players are measured by themselves and by raid groups. Large parts of them can often be solved with math, leading to simple and easily implemented results. But most important, I suspect, is a widespread impression that I hope to refute in this post: that your awareness and survivability in raids is a part of who you are as player and cannot be changed.

After outlining the basic premise that not making avoidable errors that kill you or other raid members is an area of play you should seek to improve, the bulk of this post is about specific things you can do or practice to accomplish that. Through the survey of techniques discussed—gearing your UI towards awareness, being more cognizant of your encounter routines, and constructive behavior post-wipe—what I most want to convey is a mindset. I couldn’t list out all the factors in the mental game of raiding even in much longer post than this. But if you adopt the ethos that every death is a puzzle to be solved, that somewhere in series of events leading to it is a decision you could have made better, you can train yourself to look for it.

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Dark Souls: Spoiler-Free Beginner Guide and FAQ

Dark Souls can be pretty intimidating for new players, and I’ve seen various lists of tips for people just starting out. I wanted to try writing one which was thorough, but with a balance of clarifying things that unnecessarily confusing while leaving it up to players to explore and play how they want. Now seemed like a good time, as I’ve seen friends say they were trying this game after all my recent raving about it, and also the recent Steam sales and people playing it in advance of the sequel.

The goal isn’t just “before you get started” tips, but also to have a place to get descriptions of mechanics/systems that people are likely to ask about before they know the game well. This post should tell people how some things work without telling the player which options to pick. Figuring out what to do the first time is one of the great parts of the game, but my opinion is that works a little better when people can understand what their options are and what their significance might be.

In short, it’s the guide I would have wanted to have handy when I started playing.

Technical

A controller is recommended. I could see learning the game with keyboard/mouse if you’re really nimble with a keyboard/mouse, but it probably adds more to the learning curve in a game where that’s not required at all. The biggest obstacle is that the in-game UI references only controller buttons so you’ll have to memorize the various mappings on your own.

DSFix is a crucial mod that fixes some basic issues like resolution and framerate caps. It also adds frequent auto-save backups, which can be handy in the event that any bugs or encounters with hackers in multiplayer cause problems with your save file.

If you can’t get the game to start when you first try it, it’s probably an issue with Games For Windows Live. There’s no one exact solution, but googling around for solutions that have worked for people (usually involving reinstalling GFWL Marketplace) should get you going without too much trouble.

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What I Like About Dark Souls

I know I’m late to the party on this game, but I’d always wanted to play it so I grabbed it from a recent Steam sale. There are a lot of things about this game I like; in fact one of my main points here is that I’d probably have rushed to play it much more quickly if I’d known much about it beyond “it’s really hard.” If anything, the fact that Dark Souls‘s reputation centers so singly on its difficulty undersells everything else that’s so good about this game.

In case you know nothing about the game, it’s an action RPG. So real-time combat, with constant Zelda-like attacking, blocking, and dodging between you and the various enemies, but also a fairly extensive stats/items system that’s more reminiscent of something like Diablo. The setting is medieval horror, so lots of zombies and skeletons and the like, against a variety of fantasy backdrops. It has an understated story that you experience mostly through item descriptions and NPC dialogue to the extent that you take the time to do so.

Combat

Lest I fall into a dry exposition of Dark Souls‘s unique combat systems, I’ll pick out a few aspects that should illustrate what’s special about them.

As expected, there are is a wide variety of weapons, each with a list of stats that’s a bit intimidating to a newcomer. What I’ve come to realize about halfway through my first playthrough is that the weapons don’t exist in a hierarchy like in most games, where you periodically give up your sword for the next better sword. Instead, all are (by and large) viable at all parts of the game due to an upgrade system that you use to grow your favorite weapons alongside your actual character. The neat thing is that what primarily sets all the different (for example) swords apart from each other is their animations. And I don’t mean cosmetically–while I don’t know the technical details, the game has some pretty precise hit detection, because each different swing animation damages enemies in the appropriate spatial area around your character.

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Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 12: Ganon’s Castle

This is a continuation of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here. Part 12: Ganon’s Castle

Sage Barriers

Bridge_to_Ganon's_Castle

Perculia: Returning to the main storyline, the six mini-puzzles in Ganon’s Castle left an impression on me–I liked picking out which signature elements from each temple were used in each puzzle to create a distinctive atmosphere in just a handful of rooms, and where the atmosphere felt muddied due to mixing up elements from different temples.

Hamlet: Like I mentioned in the Spirit Temple post, it’s the final dungeon where you expect to find a recapitulation of everything that came before. But I always found the layout of this one a little uninspired: here are 6 mini-dungeons, now go do them. Zelda is about exploration, and dungeons in particular are meant to be explored. A final dungeon that presents you with a few disjoint tasks and then opens up a linear path to the final boss, with a few combats, doesn’t feel like a summary of what Zelda is about at all. Link to the Past had a large and complex final dungeon that built on the puzzle elements in the dungeons that came before it. In Ocarina, by the time you get to Ganon’s Tower, it’s more of a trip down memory lane than a final challenge.

P: Forest Barrier: This puzzle heavily relied on wind tunnels, which was puzzling as wind tunnels were really only used in the Shadow Temple and core elements from the actual Forest Temple were missing, such as the Fairy Bow and hostile paintings (H: You really liked the paintings; I remember when I said that Phantom Ganon was pretty disconnected from the dungeon he was in, you pointed out that “shooting at paintings” was a thematic link). The second room also relied on Hoverboots and Hookshots to maneuver around floating islands, which was challenging but not thematically related to either the Forest Temple or the maze in the Sacred Forest Meadow. The rooms were brown and stark, without any greenery or jeweled windows I had come to love in the Forest Temple.

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Blizzcon WoW Announcement Responses

I’m finally getting around to writing down my initial reaction to the various things that were announced in WoW panels on Friday and Saturday at Blizzcon. I haven’t even caught up on everyone’s discussions since then due to travelling (…travelling and XCOM expansion being released), but it seems to good to get these down first anyway. Basically my first impressions of everything in no particular order. The biggest part will be on raid changes since those are most interesting for me (well, and there are no detailed class changes yet).

Raid Changes

Putting aside the name changes (which, aside from surely causing constant terminological confusion for the next many months, aren’t too significant), and putting aside LFR (because it’s not raiding), there are still 3 raid difficulties. But we’re going from [easy (Flex), medium (10 or 25), hard (10 or 25)] to [easy (Flex), medium (Flex), and hard (20)]. Many takeaways from that.

  • There’s no longer _any_ difficulty with two disjoint raid sizes. This is great. No more 10 vs. 25 issues. I don’t even want to rehash all the reasons that was a problem, except to the extent it comes up in the remaining points.
  • There is no more hard-mode content with fewer than 20 people. Some will see this as a dubious accomplishment, but I’ve been arguing to do away with 10H for years. It has a lot to do with the problems I discussed in the above blog post: primarily, a game with 11 classes and 34 character types can’t be balanced cleanly around 10-player teams when you’re considering the razor’s-edge tuning of Heroic raiding. “10H WoW raiding” was simply a less great game than “25H WoW raiding.” Slightly less great, but less great. I know there are some of you out there with exactly 9 friends. What I’d want most for you is a game where the systems were made from the ground up to dovetail with 10-player content, rather than a 25- or 40-player game that was pared down as well as could be managed.
  • Guilds can grow to 20 or 25. I think people will take some time to truly internalize this. We’re so used to saying “We’re a 10-person guild, how could we get to 25?” In Cataclysm and MoP, that was a valid question with no good answer. But now? The answer is that you invite people. You can! You’re so used to thinking that you can’t invite people (because there’s no “room” for them), but now you can. I know it sounds crazy, but you get from 10 to 20 by inviting people. You won’t be a 10-player guild in WoD, because there won’t be any such thing. You’ll be “a guild” and until/unless you’re raiding Mythics, you’re not pegged to any one size.
  • Flexible normal-level mode raid tuning. I’d been skeptical of this–not because I thought it would be bad, but simply because I thought (in fact, I’m still quite confident) it’s very hard to do. But they’re only releasing it if they think they’ve got it working, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. One key piece of the puzzle is a new tech feature they briefly mentioned: boss abilities that target N people will no longer stairstep at certain raid sizes, but will, at intermediate sizes, have a pro rata % chance to target 1 extra person each time. This is a crucial bit of tech that allows boss difficulty scaling to be smooth enough to fit within the expected precision for “normal” tuning rather than “easy” tuning.

One thing I still feel isn’t totally answered: why 20 instead of 25? This post very nicely answers the question “why 20 instead of 15 or some other smaller number.” But, to be frank, I didn’t consider 15-player as the only raid size to be a serious option to begin with. People always touted it as a solution to the 10/25 problem, but I never saw how it was a solution at all. 15 would have been tantamount to giving up on “big” raiding. I mention this only because 20 is still too close to 10 or 15 for complete comfort. Even for important goals like ensuring 1 of every class, 25 is a much more comfortable number. Specifically, it’s more than 2x the number of classes, which feels like an important threshold. When you have only 1 of some classes, attendance fluctuation will often give you 0.

I press on this point because the only rationale I have heard people guess so far is that it’s a sort of compromise. Something like, there was a debate between 10 and 25, and if one side flat-out “won,” people would be upset. Or more subtly, it’s the middle ground fallacy: when two sides are debating strongly, the right answer feels like it should be between them. Anyway, I hope that’s not the reason, since it’s a pretty poor one. I don’t know what it is though. I can think of a few other really minor advantages. 10% of the raid is tanks instead of 8%, slightly better for role composition. Hypothetically two 10p groups could merge (I think this is a rare case). There’s some advantage to having the flex size cap out at something higher than the hardmode size so you can bring the whole guild on farm runs. None of these, to me, outweigh the potentially added robustness of the 25-man raid size.

Overall, I think the changes are huge net positive. I said on 6/6/2013, the day Flex was announced: ”[It] will probably take some thinking to lay out a good array of raid modes to cover the various kinds of players efficiently. Just to throw out brainstorms, I think the most lightweight extreme would be to have only 2 modes: flex and 25H.” I thought that was just an idealistic example to make a point, but man, they landed pretty close to it.

Just to address the most common complaint about the changes (“what will my guild do?”). If your guild is made of the right stuff–players who want to play together and have generally similar goals in WoW–it will be fine. I’m not worried at all about 25H groups, who are only affected insofar as their recruitment officers get a break at the turn of this expansion (for once). I do understand the plight of 10H guilds. It’s not fun to be the person to has to make changes for the good of the game as a whole. I think the portion who quit will be vastly outnumbered by the portion who find that 20M is no less fun than what they’re currently doing.

One Free Level 90

I know, you’re thinking, “this is the next most important announcement?” To me it is. We live in a different gaming world that we did in 2004 and people’s expectations have changed. In a lot of ways, as a gamer, I heavily resist that–I am perennially nonplussed by microtransactions in any form, for example (and I will be by the inevitable WoW ones that are already appearing in more microtransaction-oriented regions). But one I’m fine with is that newcomers to a game need a smoother experience getting pulled into fun content at the outset without doing a lot of work (WoW needs better onboarding, as the f2p marketing types might say). Some people, or most people in fact, like leveling more than I do, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that it’s the best part of WoW.

The only rationale that people seem to give for the requirement of doing all that leveling is that you learn to play the game and play your class in the process (“enjoyable quest content” is not a reason to require players to do it before doing other kinds of content). But any game that required people to go through 100 levels (or the equivalent number of hours) of tutorialization would be a failure. You shouldn’t look at WoW’s new-player experience any differently. Similarly, no game that’s the 6th in a series makes you play the first 5 before being even allowed to play, especially not a multiplayer game where you want to play the 6th with your friends.

At first I thought it was a little odd that new players will level their first character in only 10 levels, but if you want to play another, you’ll have to do 100 levels and it will feel horribly ponderous. But it actually makes a lot of sense. In this game, you’re supposed to hit max level and then decide what types of content you like (this was a specific focus of MoP). If some of the content you like is “leveling,” that’s the time to do it, and alts are the way for you to experience that content.

Garrisons

Short because we’re still short on details (they listed a lot of things, but it’s really hard to put it all together until beta). I think that cosmetically, these look like WoW’s take on player housing–in fact they may have described it that way at one point. But WoW always said it never had a use for “player housing” as most people think of it, and I’m not sure that’s changed. The biggest role I’m seeing for garrisons is “something that makes you log in the next day (that’s not daily quests!).” That’s not what most people think of as “player housing.” It’s a giant version of the Halfhill farm (which I think they also said at some point). It’s another way that WoW is staying with the times–ever notice how every f2p game (like Hearthstone) has a thing making you want to log in at fixed intervals (often 1 day)? But WoW is really staying ahead of the times in that way, because it’s moving on from “do this quest every day to get your carrot” (which is tremendously boring) to “here’s a minigame where you sent a guy on a mission and as soon as you get home from work tomorrow you’re going to log in to see how it turned out.” It sounds infinitely better.

There are traditional player-housing features as well like trophies to show off to your friends. To be honest though, I don’t see the novelty of going to my friends’ houses lasting very long. Even if the customization is as rich as something like Animal Crossing, where people can do truly creative things with the vast array of options (I kind of doubt that it will be), they’ll just tweet their screenshots or whatever. This is probably why WoW never had player housing. It’s the minigame aspect of the Garrison that makes it worth doing. The biggest watershed in quitting any game, in my experience, is the first time a few days go by where you didn’t play or think of it–that’s when you find you’re mentally quit before you even realized it. Dailies were a way of making sure that didn’t happen, but they were so awful to actually do that it probably cut into their retentive effect. Building an entire minigame to leave you with goals that will take place at certain times in the future is a much better effort and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works.

Hit and Reforging

Plagiarizing myself again (lazier than typing). 4/26/2013:

“–Everyone has to hit 100% in PvE. Every single raider of a given class has their hit stat at exactly the same amount. The most telling part of this is that healing specs get 15% to hit. Literally the only effect of the hit stat on a piece of gear is to cause you to reforge to cancel it out.
–Reforging is not very interesting. You shuffle your worst secondary stat to your best. All it really does, other than manage the hit cap, is mute the difference between items with different secondary stats. That may have necessary when stats were less standardized, but now all it does is make gear choice less relevant. Also the little bit of free-from stat choice that it adds is completely redundant with the whole purpose of gems.

We have multiple systems now (the hit/miss attack roll and the hit stat, and the reforging system) whose sole purpose is ensuring that everyone hits everything 100% of the time. I want to argue that they’re all completely vestigial and should be gone next expansion. There are some obstacles, like the need to come up with a fourth DPS stat to replace it, but one thing at a time.”

So yeah, that happened. Unsurprisingly, I approve.

Tertiary Stats

Really neat, not an idea I’d ever even considered. To summarize:

  1. Primary stats are always present in fixed value on items of a given slot/ilvl. There’s no player choice associated with them, but they mediate scaling. The increase in primary stat as you get better gear drowns out most other terms that would cause scaling imbalances.
  2. Secondary stats affect your core min/maxy character ability, such as DPS or healing output. There’s player choice is figuring out which is best, but they tend to be a little one-dimensional (your spreadsheet tells you which to favor). They contribute to scaling and should be generally balanced. All items of a given slot/ilvl have comparable total secondary stats.
  3. Tertiary stats don’t affect DPS and the like (“cleave” does a bit, consider than an open point for now). They don’t affect scaling or balance–your raid leader won’t view you as behind because you have less lifesteal or runspeed than someone else. It’s okay for comparable items in the same tier to have different amounts of tertiary stats (I believe many or most items will have 0, in fact).

Viewed this way, the third stat category makes a lot of sense. When thinking about how to work in e.g. runspeed as a stat, I kept getting stuck on how to balance it against DPS. An interesting debate by the way–normally players always favor DPS (in fact the whole MoP talent redesign was driven by that notion)–but there’s clearly a tipping point (a player who doesn’t use a runspeed enchant on their boots is bad). Anyway, a new category of “optional” stats is great.

As an aside, gems are being changed to an analogue of Thunderforged. It’s an extra bump to non-tertiary stats that you might roll up occasionally. Basically now there are two ways instead of one that an item can be little better than average, a socket or being Forged. So they really like the Forged idea since they’re doubling it, and even the whole tertiary stat concept is a variant of it.

I’m mildly surprised they’re doing away with (traditional) gems as well as reforging. Much of the thrust of my issues with reforging was being redundant with gems (free stat choice). Getting rid one of one mode of free stat adjustment felt like an obvious change to me, but not both. Still, I can’t say picking gems was very interesting, so I have no reason to complain.

—–

Okay, have to stop typing for now, I hit on the big design issues we know about. I didn’t touch on L100 talents, but it mostly would have been “a bunch of neat ideas, too early to worry about min/maxing them anyway.” I think doing in-depth into the L100 talents so far will be a good avenue for launching into thoughts on class changes (which we otherwise haven’t seen). But right now, reading them doesn’t let me infer anything big about what they’re doing with classes in WoD.

Let me know your thoughts.