Monday, July 17, 2006

Is Blizzard Playing the Same Game?

This entire post is completely hypothetical. A thought experiment, if you will.

The Raid and Dungeon forums are currently in an uproar over the slated nerf to Windfury Totem. It is a general consensus that Alliance raiding is easier than Horde raiding, and that shamans are less powerful than paladins in PvE. So to nerf Windfury Totem, which is used by Horde tanks to increase rage and threat, seems nonsensical. If you add this nerf to both the shaman and paladin reviews, it almost begs the question, is Blizzard playing the same game as the rest of us?

Well, what if Blizzard isn't?

In all the discussions on the forums, the only items being taken into consideration are blessings, totems, and heals. All other aspects of the two classes are ignored. In a 40-man raid, the player base assumes that there are 15 healers, who stand in the back, buff and heal. Gregthegreat on the paladin forum summed it up best: "A paladin is better than a shaman because a paladin emulates a priest better."

But what if Blizzard does not have that same assumption? What if they assume that there are only 10 or so full-time healers, and shamans and paladins are meleeing/casting and spot healing? And that their raid design takes into account the additional paladin/shaman damage when they balance the two factions.

I think that a lot of Blizzard's actions regarding the shaman and paladin make more sense when looked at through this lens. If Blizzard believes that the existing optimum raid strategy for paladins is to melee, how are they going to react to calls to improve meleeing? I think they would be confused, and make minor changes, shuffling things around. Which pretty much describes the paladin review. After all, if meleeing is already the best strategy, making meleeing better just breaks things.

I believe that Blizzard tests its content, with raids from both factions. That proposed changes are the result of the internal testing. But if the internal testing makes fundamentally different assumptions than the player base, there will be a disconnect between what the internal team believes is necessary, and what the player base believes is necessary.

From my own personal experience, 15 healers *is* excessive for the majority of fights. 10 healers, with additional spot healing from meleeing paladins, is good enough for most fights. And if that holds Alliance side, it should also hold Horde side.

It also explains the Horde/Alliance disparity a bit. A paladin has a low amount of internal power, but gives a lot of power to her allies through buffs. A shaman has a higher amount of internal power, but gives less power to his allies. So if they both restrict their actions, the Horde raid suffers much more from the withdrawal of shaman power than the Alliance raid does from the loss of paladin power.

Now, I don't know if what I described in this thought experiment is true or not. For this to be true, the commonly held wisdom by the player base about raid roles--that paladins and shamans are primarily healers--is false. But a lot of Blizzard's actions simply do not make sense if the common wisdom is true. So we're left with two choices. Either the common wisdom is wrong, or Blizzard does not know what they are doing.

I'm sure I know what the cynical among you would pick. :)


  1. 15 healers is overkill in MC. But I assure you it's not in AQ40. And it's in BWL. We were running against Hurun tonight and at 30% the amount of raw damage it puts out is just insane.

  2. Well, I've never done Huhuran, so I can't really comment from experience. From an armchair general point of view though, that fight looks like it was designed for meleeing paladins.

    Consider a raid group with 5 of each class.

    1. Her poison volley hits the nearest 15 people. That's warriors, rogues, and the meleeing paladins.

    2. Her Wyvern Sting hits 10 of the closest people. With meleeing paladins, that means it's probable that some of the tanks will avoid it, and can take over tanking (skip ahead in the rotation to next unstung tank?).

    3. The fight is all about going from 30% to 0% as fast as possible. Any paladin melee damage is strictly extra and will help down her faster.

    4. If people are being AoE healed, you are not spending extra mana healing paladins.

    Again though, this is all theorycraft from my point of view. It's possible the strat I've outlined is deeply flawed. Maybe AoE healing is not sufficient. But nothing I've seen out and out prevents paladins from melee-healing (not like Geddon or Shazzrah).

  3. In fact, I think you could take Huhu as proof of my theory.

    Why hit the nearest 15 people? Why not 20? Is it coincidence that 15 will get you all of the melee people if paladins melee?

    Why does the Sting only hit the 10 closest? Why not 8 or 12? If the paladins stood back, 10 would guarantee that all your tanks would get put to sleep. That sounds bad.

    Is it just coincidence that the numbers work out nicely if you have meleeing paladins/shamans? Or is it intentional design from Blizzard?

  4. Meleeing Shamans? That'd be a sacrilege in my guild. The Shamans are supposed to heal and nothing more. (They're also the ones doing the rezzing while the raid moves on.)

    Should Shamans be healing?

    Look at the Tier 1 gear. It has a lot of +Healing and some +Spell Damage.

    Tier 2 "improves" things, at least for anyone left with some Elemental talents in that while it improves on the +Healing slightly, it really adds some +Spell Damage.

    As if to say "By Tier 2 the Shaman will be expected to DPS some using spells, i.e. their Elemental talents." As if the Shaman would be expected to be doing some damage, and not just healing. But not via melee, via casting. (Enhancement is ignored.)

    Now the Tier 3 set reverses that. There is 0 +Spell Damage. It's all +Healing.

    That tells me, a 60 Shaman who's got the full Tier 1, that Blizzard expects me to be doing nothing but Healing while in raids.

    But since I'm not raiding anymore (time zone change) I've said "Nuts!" to that and have respecced a "selfish" Enhancement and am donning whatever +Enhancement gear I can get my hands on. Earthshaker from MC, Bloodstained Hauberk from ZG, Black Brood Pauldrons from BWL, and some assorted +AP and +Agi gear.

    I seriously do not see Blizzard envisioning the Shamans on Raid as anything other than Healers.

    I can't speak to the Paladin side.

    I'd say though, as a look into what Blizzard might be thinking, "Look at the gear."

    It's clear the PvP gear is geared towards PvP, and raiding gear is geared towards raiding.

    If my Shamans gear is entirely +Healing and +Mana Regen, I don't see anyone expecting anything other than healing from a Shammy in a Raid. And only the fully Resto specc'd Shammy is going to bring the best to the raid.

    How does a Paladin's Tier 3 look?

    As to totem nerfs? Our guild does not factor totem use into the tanks rage generation. Stoneskin, naturally, for the armor. Grace of Air if crits would help, Windfury if that would add something. My guild pretty much discounts the benefit of totems, other than the ALL POWERFUL MANATIDE TOTEM.

    15 Healers in MC means quick progress and little downtime. 5 Shammys, 5 Druids, and 5 Priests. Overkill only means faster progress through MC, which isn't a bad thing. (Getting close to 3 hours, including Ragnaraos, now.)

  5. Yeah, armchair generaling. Your forgetting that your MT is taking something in the range of 2000 DPS per second. The priests will be trying to keep thier groups up but you're expecting druids to be able to output 2000 hps? Or you're expecting Paladins in 300+ NR to be able to heal at all? And did you think that 15 might have been chosen because it gives a 1:1 healer to person taking damage ratio?

  6. I still demand to be properly quoted.

  7. You are. Refresh the page. :)

  8. Apparently if the horde complain enough the Devs will give them what they want. There will be no Windfury changes.

  9. What about meleeing Druids!

  10. From a newbie raider (only doing MC). At the moment our paladins heal & cleanse and I think its because of the difficulty it is to put up a balanced raid in our guild. We go with what we have (or who signs up for the raid) and without 5 priests and 5 druids the paladins will be forced to do their share of the healing.

    I imagine that if we in our guild could get a better line up there would be no problem for meleeing pallys.

  11. haha, greg actually quoted that in the thread that i started. I agree with him completely.

    Paladins cleanse, heal, buff and support-dps better than shamans. Shamans are the hummer's of WoW, they go like a freaking tank for 2 minutes, which is great for 5 mans, but for 40 mans where fights last as long as 7 minutes (Patchwerk) nowadays, shamans have little to provide. The entire totem mechanic is broken as well, since we dont have as many options as paladins, nor do our comparison spells match up to theirs. BoS is 10% stronger than Tranquil Air for example.

    I think that Blizzard doesn't play the same game as us, it plays the money game. It plays to impress the majority of the people in the game and keep them happy. I mean, it doesnt make sence to upset 60-65% of your player base right? Guess who's that 60%...Alliance. This game is not about leveling, adventuring, questing and RP'ing. It's about mindlessly grinding reputation and dungeons...hence why blizzard makes it easier for the majority...the alliance. From a marketing point of view, the fairest thing to do is not always the right thing to do.

    Overall, I think the argument is dead. Both sides have too much d**k up their a$$e$ to admit that the other side is right and wrong at the same time. Horde is right that alliance raiding is stronger, but fail to realize that the difference is probably not as critical as they think they are. Purely blaming the entire situation of Horde raid groups not being as strong as alliance ones on a few abilities of a different faction is just gimping yourself. Most of the horde is being crybabies, whining instead of trying to improve and strengthen themselves. So far I've been on 4 different servers. On 2 of those servers(Ursin and Aegwynn), the Horde essentially destroyed the Alliance in PvE and got almost every first on the server. There are many good horde teams and in the end I believe it comes down to how skilled you are. If you dont have the attention span to know that u have to dispell geddon's mana burn, no buffs will ever save you.

    The horde has many advantages to the alliance as well. -Cleansing totems are better than actually cleanse.
    -Earthbind makes Razorgore encounter easy as hell.
    -Horde has advantages in short "hummer truck" fights.
    -Horde can maintain their buffs in certain encounters where alliance can't, eg Garr who purges all buffs.
    -Shamans can purge, meaning priests dont have to worry about dispelling. Shazzrah's self-buff comes to mind.
    -Damage wise, Windfury is STILL superior to anything the alliance can put out for melee. The nerf to windfury totem isnt that bad, because previously, you couldnt have windfury without tranquil air cuz warriors and combat rogues would draw aggro. This way, maybe it is possible for rogues/warriors to still dps and still get the benefit of windfury.

    Overall, people have to realize that horde raids are more OFFENSIVE and hummer-truck style than alliance raids.

    I seriously am going to stop going to WoW forums because 95% of the posts there are retarded by kiddies who are too full of themselves to realize that maybe that the other side is always right. Trolls, idiots and nerfcallers make the WoW forums generally trash. Among the entire WoW community, I have only a few people that I know speak wisdom, BoK blog, Iapetes, Franky (warrior) and Nert are the only people I really respect.

  12. This is Azreal, from Death and Taxes, Korgath.

    You have a very interesting view on what you think Blizzard does, to say the least. I’m sorry to say that your idea isn’t logical.

    If it is anything like anything like other games, the majority of internal testing is done is ideal conditions, with no server latency other such luxuries that do not exist in the real world, and very rarely do the internal testers actually beat the encounter. The testing is to ensure that things are working smoothly, not to see if the encounter is beatable. The majority of testing is indeed done internally, but all the fine tuning comes from watching other guilds on the Public Test Realm. I’ve seen first hand all the changes that were proposed by our raid leader implemented directly into the instance, and much of the balance is a product of all the guilds on the Test Realm. However, the actually balancing comes from the raw numbers; a boss has a certain amount of HP, and players must stay alive to beat in order to do that much damage. To avoid trivializing the encounter with an excess of survivability, enrage timers were introduced. Each encounter requires you do a set amount of DPS in a certain time frame in a controlled environment. When players start dieing from imposed conditions, such as Rain of Fire and other imposed hazards, your raid DPS decreases, and you are unable to complete the encounter. This is implemented to punish poor play; if you die to something you can control, you do not deserve the reward of killing the boss and the corresponding loot.

    The majority of encounters in Naxxramas have a very precise raid composition required, and it is relatively easy to figure out from just the raw numbers. A certain number of healing is required, and of course, a certain number of DPS is needed to meet the goals of the encounter. Due to the server latency and occasional instability, and the fact several guilds are progressing at a rate faster than encounters were designed and balanced for and are therefore under geared for their position in the instance, more DPS is require than what it was tested for. Therefore, it is not feasible to bring in Paladins and Shaman as a damage dealing class that spot heals. It is much more beneficial to the raid if you were reduce the amount of healers to the bear minimum and bring the maximum amount of pure damage dealing classes. Due to this, the majority of raiding guilds do not use those classes as damage dealers. Even if Blizzard does in fact do so, which is highly unlikely given the nature of encounters and the classes in question, it is clear that they are not ideal in that role.

    There are many ideal examples for this.

    If you did not know already, Loatheb places a debuff on each healing class that restricts them to casting a single heal every minute, leaving them with a very large amount of time for which they could be dealing damage. The encounter revolves around Impending Doom, which deals damage to the raid at set intervals. Since there is an enrage type mechanic, you must kill him before a certain point in the fight; it is not possible to simply bring enough healing to keep groups up indefinitely. Therefore, since the amount of DPS you need is quite intensive, it is not possible to have healers in damage dealing gear for the time when they are not healing. It is much more beneficial to have them in maximized healing gear and reduce the number of healers needed in the rotation. Let’s just say that if your healers all wore damage gear, you could keep the tank up with 15 healers. If they were to all use healing gear, and you reduced the number of healers in the rotation to 12, your raid damage would drastically increase from the three additional damage classes.

    I don’t really want to go into it, but as for the more pressing issue of faction imbalance, while it is there, it is nowhere as near as bad as people make it out to be. I’ve heard claims that my own guild would not even be able to do Blackwing Lair, let alone Naxxramas, if we were Horde. Quite a few members of this guild were Horde at one time, or have raided extensively as them. The difference may as well be less than getting a higher drop rate on items that drastically improve raid performance. A tank with Thunderfury is simply that much better than one without, and allows for a huge increase in raid damage from the extra threat generated. Three to five rogues with Death’s Sting are much better than Rogues using Perdition’s. Small differences in a few keys items add to possibly overcome the seemingly glaring differences between factions. For example, an Alliance Priest has more mana, and better mana regeneration than a Horde Priest. This is a fact, based on pure numbers from the respective faction buffs. However, if another guild has gotten one or two more Rejuvenating Gems, does that not make them slightly better than all the other guilds who have not, regardless of faction? If a guild has a member with exceptional gear leave the game and replaced him with a newer and less geared player, are they not worse off than every other guild? I see no calls to nerf guilds that have had exceptionally good drop rates on rare items. I see no calls to nerf guilds that have a low turn over rate.

  13. So what Azreal is saying, is they do watch guilds play, but only the uber leet guilds that force players into a certain spec or /gkick, raid raid raid even on test servers without pause, don't even want hybrid classes at all, and are probably the type of people that the joke movie "you lose 50 dkp!" was based on.

    yeah, that's the same game we all play.

    so your basic premise is still true, they're not writing for us.