Monday, 27 February 2012

Min Max

A recent Dev post by Ghostcrawler highlighted the issues faced by MMO's when designing their games. Most have settled for the tried and trusted Holy Trinity - Tank, Healer, and Damage Dealer. The article was well written and very honest. However I must dispute the following claim

"We can get all of the DPS specs pretty close together on target dummies, and indeed they actually are very close on target dummies today"

Does Ghostcrawler play BM Hunter or Frost Mage? I know I do. I feel that these 2 are way behind the other specs available. Perhaps Ghostcrawler has inside information for a secret rotation that Elitist Jerks have not discovered. I know he has hinted at this in the past. Please GC let us know.

When I first started with a mage, as with every other class you get to level 20 without dying, then on a sortee into Stranglethorn Vale, I first noticed how easy the clothies died. Up against one foe the mage could execute anyone with a string of Frostbolt, Arcane Missile, and Fireball, but if they managed to hit you face to face that was very bad. From a leveling point of view it made absolute sense to me to make the most use of the slowing spells, which in vanila meant Frostbolt and Frost Nova. The leveling specs seemed to choose themselves.

The same was also true when I created my first character, a Warrior. I didn't really get on with the playstyle and quickly created another character. This time I studied the guide books and decided that I really liked the idea of having a pet fighting alongside me. At level 10, I picked up my first pet and my first talent. That very first talent point I placed in Beast Mastery, I had no reason to pick BM other than that seemed liked the best place to start.

I never took any particular notice until TBC when I wanted to know more about Hunters and in particular BM. I discovered first the Hunters Mark (a blog that is no longer with us) and from there I followed a link to Big Red Kitty. BRK was brazen in his love for his pet cat and the magical spells Bestial Wrath and the Beast Within. BRK believed that BM was capable of topping the meters, at a time when 50% of the hunter community was specced Marksman. This period is now considered to be time of the Beast Master but most commentators believed at the time that Marksman was producing vastly superior numbers. Is this a case of rose tinted glasses? What was not mistaken was how Overpowered BM was in the early stages of WotLK. The nerf bat was swung and the classic age of BM was consigned to history, never to return to it's once lofty heights.

The arguments at the time centred on BM being easymode and the more complexed rotations of Marksman and Survival deserved to be rewarded with higher DPS output. In Cataclysm none of the specs appears to be any harder than the others and in some respects BM requires the most management of both Pet and cooldowns. So does one spec deserve to be so undervalued for so long? If Blizzard is considering changing Hunters, Rogues, Warlocks and Mages from 3 to 2 alternative specs, which ones deserve to survive. In the case of Hunters, Survival lacks the flavour of the other 2 specs, yet this is the current top raiding spec.

For the Altaholics amongst us, swapping specs is a monumental undertaking. At present I play 10 characters with a total of 12 different specs to get my head around. If you just concentrate on one character it is not such a big thing to swap from Marksman to Survival, research the glyphs, rotations best stats etc. Then go and bash a dummy for 20 minutes. Multiply that by 7 and then it starts to become a problem

In the case of Mage I would argue that Frost and Fire are so similiar in terms of spells, that the only difference is the colour of the spells. In reality one of these specs is the top raiding spec and the other is flourishing in PvP as the first for the enemy to target to stop that never ending trap/ensnaring machine that Frost as become. It probably makes more sense to have a hybrid of the two with special damage being awarded for the cross use of hot and cold.

Warlocks and Rogues also suffer from the same inbalances, although I can safely say I don't enough about either class to make the same sweeping statements. So I would guess for the Pures, the choice is going to reduce to two. At the same time, the all singing all dancing Druids actually branch out to get a fourth tree. With this kind of versatility what hope have the Pures got of surviving future expansions.

A quick look on WoW Census shows that the four classes under the median of 10% are Rogues, Warlocks, Shaman, and Warrior. Rogues are probably on a little bit of a comeback with the current raiding tier offering a chance at a pair of Legendaries. Even without the Lengendaries on offer, Dragon Soul seems to shower the stealthy pointy daggered breatheren with weapons. Shaman like Druids used to suffer with a lack of race options and will probably always been a minority class. Warlocks have always suffered with a close approximation to Mages and have the distinction of being the Mages evil twin. This is probably a turnoff for the Teenage Human Paladin brigade. Warrior is an unglamourous class, with a stigma attached to those daring not to be Tanks. They suffer this problem more than any other class even though Death Knights have exactly the same makeup of one tanking Spec and two Dps specs.

So what is going to happen when there is a new Race and Class to choose from? I personally see a very black and white future.

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