Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Abilities Per GCD

How often should a player be hitting a button? Should the player be pressing a button every global cooldown (GCD), or is it better that some GCDs are left empty?

I've been watching forums for a while now, and it seems that the trend is for people to demand that every GCD has to be filled. But that leads to a problem with certain archetypes.

Consider 10 GCDs. Let's say that each class is designed to deal 1000 damage after 10 GCDs. If every GCD is filled, then each button press contributes an average of 100 damage.

But say you want a class that does big hits. With an ability that does 400 damage.  That means the remaining 9 buttons only do 66 damage. So you're spending button presses on many weak abilities just so you can have that one big hitter.

There are ways around this of course. For example, the small ability could boost the large ability, so a portion of that 400 damage is really attributable to the small ability.

But overall, it seems easier to design a class that doesn't use every GCD, or has abilities that cost multiple GCDs (casters, usually). If you only used 5 abilities in that 10 GCD window, your heavy hitter could do 400 damage, and the other four still do 150 damage, which is more than a class that fills each GCD.

Then the problem with empty GCDs is that filling them with anything becomes a viable means of increasing damage. The usual route is to throw in AoE abilities, like Retribution paladins did with Consecration.

SWTOR provides all classes with a very weak filler ability that does not cost resources (or even grants resources), giving the player a button to press when they have nothing better to do. I'm still not sure it's better than just having the player wait for the extra GCD.

Ultimately though, is a class with empty GCDs a viable playstyle anymore?


  1. I think it's viable, but only less manic, Dance-y games. Empty GCDs felt fine for years up until I had to start watching timers, the ground, raid warnings, clicking on things, running towards people, running away from people, etc etc etc.

    There is a certain cadence I would get into during boss fights wherein I was able to perform a fairly complex rotation almost unconsciously while keeping an eye on everything else. Remember 6969 as a paladin tank? It was beautiful. Meanwhile, I never liked Retribution (and DKs I think) during those days because the sputtering and random gaps forced me to look at my hotbars or wait for a proc. The rhythm was gone, and my situational awareness along with it.

  2. I like having empty GCDs.

    Take Enhancement Shaman, for example. One of the most complex rotations out there, yet still has empty spots in the rotation. I usually toss out a defensive cooldown, or a healing stream totem, or refresh my fire totem, or things like that in the downtime.

    If I have to interrupt my rotation to perform utility, then that utility is a DPS loss. If there's room in my rotation for things like that, then I can still be assured that I'm not screwing something up like an enrage timer when I still have the presence of mind to be helpful with off-healing and the like.

  3. Empty GCDs are ideal slots for player movement/interaction.

    If a telegraph gives sufficient time to both get a heavy hit off (if it's up) and move out of the way, you have an effective use of an empty GCD slot without losing a rotation.

    If you have to delay your heavy hit (by 10 GCDs total in your example) to move away or whatever, you've effectively lost one rotation and extended the fight, possibly to that disappointing wipe at 2%.

    If you don't have to move, these little abilities provide a small bonus for good/lucky positioning.

    I suppose that movement can be done in conjunction with a hit if that hit is an instant cast.. like using a FF14 Conjurer's Aero or Fluid Aura on the way out of a telegraph.

    Some interactions give you some time to get your big hit off, but then take multiple GCDs to complete - such as getting to and deactivating a Void Lamp in Haukke Manor, FF14. A class with an evenly distributed rotation would be more heavily affected by such interactions, especially if they happen constantly throughout the fight. Instants are not beneficial in this case except for part of the run to the Void Lamp.

    With all the movement in fights these days, I'd probably lean toward desiring a small amount of down time in a rotation.

    The little hits are also an effort-reward thing. Perhaps you can get by casually though most, or even all, content just spamming your big hit.. eventually. Or you can be elitist/twitchy to maximize your contribution with a more complex rotation and get through content faster or teamed up with more competent players. Perhaps flattening effectiveness over a rotation would reduce the gap between casual and elitist players (and cause the elitist players to complain about their game being dumbed down)?

    I think classes can be well designed either way and if a game sports both, people will naturally pick the one that suits their playstyle. So long as the class does its job, how can it not be viable?

  4. It seems that only select healer classes are allowed the luxury of empty GCDs nowadays, those which do not have active regen abilities (e.g. SWTOR operative/scoundrel diagnostic scan or WOW restoshammies' lightning) and don't have combo-points to build up (e.g. espers in WS and all TSW healers).

  5. GCD limited versus resource limited... It could almost become a holy war like vi vs. emacs :)
    As a feral druid I of course favor resource-limited play, as it provides one more variable and a broken keypress tempo.