Sunday, September 07, 2008

The End of Mana

It seems like the MMO industry is moving away from mana as a resource. Warhammer Online has completely done away with mana, opting for an Energy-like regen system. Warriors and Rogues in WoW use Rage and Energy respectively, and the new Death Knights uses Runes/Runic Power. Even if you look at the mana-using classes, more and more of them are moving away from the tradition version of mana.

The tradition definition of mana is a resource which powers your abilities that starts at full, is slowly depleted, and can only be regenerated out-of-combat or through long periods of inactivity.

If you look at the current WoW mana classes, many of them are moving towards a self-contained cycle for their main resource. For example:

Warlocks: Cast Spells -> Lifetap -> Drain/Heal
Enhance Shamans: Use Abilities -> Shamanistic Rage
Protection Paladins: Use Abilities -> Regain mana through Spiritual Attunement

In WotLK, more classes will join the new model:

Hunters: Full Damage with Aspect of the Hawk -> Mana Regen with Aspect of the Viper
Ret Paladins: (hopefully) Use Abilities -> Judgements of the Wise

The two categories left which use the traditional mana model are mages/boomkins/elemental shamans and healers.

So why are more and more classes shifting away from the traditional mana model? I think the main reason is that mana does not really handle fights of varying length well, especially for DPS classes. If the fight is too long, you run out of mana. If the fight is too short, you have mana left unspent. Indeed, this was part of the reason chaining mana potions was so powerful, as it allowed you to tailor your mana pool to the length of the fight.

As well, in theory the traditional mana model is supposed to make you trade-off longevity for damage. In practice, most people just blasted away with their main nuke, and didn't really adjust tactics in-game to compensate for fight length. The only class which really considered longevity are classes with a 2-cycle spell rotation. And a 2-cycle rotation is perhaps overly sensitive to fight length.

The self-contained model, on the other hand, scales to any arbitrary fight length. The length of the fight is no longer restricted by the mana of the players, it can be as long or as short as desired.

This didn't matter as much in 5-mans, as 5-man fights have an implicit timer: the healer's mana bar. When the healer's mana bar runs out, the fight usually ends. As well, unlike DPS which has very little "over-damage", healers can extend their mana bar by playing smarter and avoiding overheal. Wasted mana is very important for a healer, unlike DPS. However, once you have more than one healer, a healer's mana bar can last a lot longer through efficiencies and trading off regen time, or even just reducing the damage done. Unlike DPS, the rate at which healers spend mana is very dependent on the specifics of the encounter.

I think time has shown that the traditional mana model is not the best resource for an MMO. In a lot of ways, it is either too constraining, or ends up not mattering at all. I think that more and more MMOs will move towards self-contained resource cycles to power abilities.

15 comments:

Shalkis said...


As well, in theory the traditional mana model is supposed to make you trade-off longevity for damage. In practice, most people just blasted away with their main nuke, and didn't really adjust tactics in-game to compensate for fight length.

Indeed. And the reason for this was that non-mana-using classes did not have to make that tradeoff. A melee class chipping away at an opponent does at least as much damage as a caster that's nuking. So to stay viable, the caster had to nuke at full blast at all times, mana be damned.

SolidState said...

Indeed, this was part of the reason chaining mana potions was so powerful, as it allowed you to tailor your mana pool to the length of the fight

This makes we wonder why chaining mana potions was removed. If it was a viable game mechanic which allowed for more flexibility for both players and developers, why remove it? It surly could not have been due to Blizzard worrying about the gold-cost of the potions, not with 8k-gold rings introduced to the game...

As for "allowing DPS to nuke regardless of mana", don't melee nuke regardless of energy/rage? Why shouldn't casters be allowed to nuke? The only mechanic which does and should limit nuking is threat. Limiting casters ability to nuke, without limiting the melee, would simply create a game imbalance.

Shalkis said...

This makes we wonder why chaining mana potions was removed.
It's back again, btw. Apparently Blizzard didn't want to rebalance encounters to not require chaindrinking.

RJ said...

As Shalkis said, the potion sickness debuff was removed like, 6 or 7 patches ago? I was sure that it was removed even before the Alpha ended, but I kept seeing people still think it was in effect all over the place, so it made me worry that maybe my own information was wrong.


Anyway, I just have to mention that if you're going to consider Shamanistic Rage, then you probably should consider a Mage's Evocation, a Druid's Innervate, and the new Paladin Divine Plea.

Anonymous said...

The potion sickness debuff is still there (only 1 potion per fight).

The reason people think it has been removed is that the debuff icon is not showing up correctly.

Anonymous said...

I think all the clever abilities and systems you see in place in WoW for mana regen are implemented in an effort to do something better or at least different from Everquest. In EQ, the Enchanter class has a spell that allowed the player to regen mana at an elevated rate. It was necessary for raids, awesome for groups, and in a some cases was the only buff that allowed some classes to solo effectively. Clarity (the buff) was so desireable that I remember charging people to cast it on them. The duration was an hour, so they could usually get their money's worth out of the buff. The mana regen system went through changes in eq too. Originally the only way you could regen mana is if you were staring at your spellbook (took up the full screen). We can all see the problem with that... you couldn't see the rest of the world that sony had programmed for you, and that world was a dangerous place for most.

Rohan said...

Anyway, I just have to mention that if you're going to consider Shamanistic Rage, then you probably should consider a Mage's Evocation, a Druid's Innervate, and the new Paladin Divine Plea.

RJ, perhaps my view is incorrect, but I see Evocation, Innervate, and Divine Plea as more of a one-time boost to your mana, rather than a cycle that is supposed to repeat over and over during the fight. Shamanistic Rage is closer to a repeating cycle, as it is used multiple times during the fight.

Basically, if you could "go infinite" with Evocation or Divine Plea (while still using abilities at a very high rate), then yes, I would say that class has transitioned to self-contained model. I just don't think that has happened yet.

wowblogger said...

This is very true and mana needs to be changed especially for mages. As you explained our dps should not correlate directly to the number of mana pots we consume. A system of energy would make us much more economical and balance our class a lot more.
samownall - World of Warcraft Blogger

Macawber said...

I agree with your post, the traditional mana system doesn't work very well. The problem is, what would you replace it with? I can think of only 3 systems: Rage, where you build up a resource by dealing damage. Energy, where the resource builds up very quickly over time, but not quite quickly enough to spam abilities non-stop. Or you could not have any resource at all, but all abilities are on a long enough cooldown that they can't be spammed. The last one isn't in WoW right now, but it seems like it could work OK. Do you have any other ideas for alternatives to the traditional mana system?

Rohan said...

Actually Macawber, the time or cooldown system is very similar to Death Knight runes. It's sort of like a bunch of abilities sharing a cooldown. As well, to a certain degree, Prot/Ret Paladins are cooldown-based.

RJ said...

Rohan: While I see your point and don't really disagree, Shamanistic Rage's cooldown means that you might at best only use it once or twice in a typical boss fight, and if you're unlucky you might end up getting even less mana back then the Mage who Evocates, or the Priest/Druid who got Innervated.

Shamanistic Rage is kind of an "in-between" between the abilities that just give "one-time" massive lumps and those which give back smaller amounts over smaller periods of time.

Anonymous said...

From a PvP rogue point of view, what I don't like in the current implementation of mana is that, especially for healers, it seems to be an infinite resource (especially coupled with no-more-spell-pushback talents).

Rage and energy, even if they seem infinite, seem much more restrictive than mana. Rogues cannot spam their abilities because of the energy regeneration speed (an a mage can spam ice lance all day long while running away from us doing 180 jumps).

In battlegrounds, I have pounded on holy paladins for minutes while they just sit there and spam their healing spells (and watch me kill myself on Retribution Aura).

My .02 USD about mana.

tego said...

@ anon pvp rogue... just wait till our ret aura scales with our spell power. you wont fight that holy paladin for very long. you will kill yourself long before then =) and no we are not OP

Rohan said...

The anon rogue has a point. Traditional mana classes have very few transitions between "enough" mana and "not-enough" mana. A rogue, in contrast, shuttles between the two states all the time.

This is both good and bad. It sucks for the rogue while the mana-class is still in the "enough mana" state. But once the mana-class has been forced into the "not-enough" state (say through mana-burn) it's a lot harder for them to recover.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit of an odd ball theory relating to solidstate's comment. it might work back to wanting to keep gold farming down to a minimum. with the mana pots the primary source was an alchemist. needing herbs to make them. a not insignificant portion of the herbs coming into your typical AH would have been from gold farmers botting the herbing. in this case the gold is still in the player system, and can be sold by the gold sellers once their bots collect it. an 8kgold vendor bought ring on the other hand permanently removes that 8k from the economy of WoW. This may seem like a long shot. but if you look at where you see the gold farmers on servers they are farming materials (primals ore herbs etc) not questing for gold. So in effect the gold seller's biggest source of gold is other players buying their goods. By removing the worth of huge amounts of these materials. they limit the ability of a gold farmer to get gold for botting