Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spirit and Fun

The discussion about Illumination has me thinking about mana regeneration in WoW. Paladins have spell crit, Warlocks have Lifetap, but what do priests/mages/druids have? They have Spirit.

Part of the reason that there is so much conflict over regen and endurance is that, quite frankly, Spirit is a terrible stat and mechanic. Spirit is widely considered the worst stat in the game, and gear with Spirit is generally regarded as much less valuable than gear without it.

The problem with Spirit is that it violates what I will call Coriel's First Law of Design:

Doing stuff is fun.
Not doing stuff is not fun.

Mana regeneration via Spirit is governed by something called the Five Second Rule (FSR). The FSR states that you only get mana back after you have gone five seconds without casting a spell, and you only get mana until you cast another spell.

So not only do you have to do nothing to regenerate mana, you have to spend 5s doing nothing with no benefit before you even start regenerating mana. And 5s can be an eternity, especially for a healer.

Contrast this with Illumination or Lifetap. Illumination rewards the paladin for casting heals. With Lifetap, the warlock is actively controlling her mana regen. In both cases the player is actively doing something worthwhile to improve their play. They are not standing around doing nothing.

Spirit is so bad that we actually have a second stat which governs mana regeneration: mana/5s or mp5. Both stats return mana to the player, they just differ in how they do so. Mp5 returns mana at a continous rate, even if the player is casting a spell. Mp5 is widely regarded as superior to Spirit because it works all the time. A player with mp5 can actively play the game, and not just wait around.

The fact that we have two stats which basically do the same thing is a really bad sign. It's a clear indication that the original stat mechanic was deeply and fundamentally flawed.

It's probably really late in the game's lifecycle to change this, but I think that Spirit should do the same thing as mp5. Return mana to the caster at a continuous rate during combat, and return heath/mana at a higher rate outside of combat. All items with mp5 should be converted to Spirit, and all talents that allow mana regeneration while casting should be reworked to provide bonus regeneration.

At one fell swoop we eliminate a stat, simplifying gear choices, and make Spirit a valued stat once again. As well, priests, druids, and mages get a method of mana regen which can be counted upon and which lets them be active players having fun, while still getting the benefit.


  1. The thing about Spirit for other classes, though, is that they have mechanics through talents to allow for Spirit to regen mana while casting.
    Meditation (Discipline) - Allows 5/10/15% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting.
    Intensity (Resto) - same effect
    Arcane Meditation (Arcane) - same effect

    I know that these are only 3 talents among many that these 3 classes have, but it points to a game mechanic. I think Blizzard's talent design as is on the Priest and Druid trees, as well as the Druid Innervate and Mage Evocation, would become a lot more powerful and therefore a bit unbalanced if all MP/5 were converted to Spirit and the Spirit mechanic were changed. I'm not saying that I oppose the idea - in fact I support it. I just wanted to point out that there are several talents (Druid Tree form, Priest Spiritual Guidance, among others) that are linked to and scale with Spirit, and would require reworking if MP/5 became Spirit.

    I for one agree that doing nothing is very, very boring. The game is less fun if you have to stand around waiting for mana. This points to another issue that I've disliked in the game since my paladin received the spell: Lay on Hands drains all mana, and paladins have no way to regain mana once its gone, through talents or otherwise, unless they're hurt and someone else heals them. If I'm healing a 5 man and a boss mob combos the tank for a lot of damage and is winding up for another swing, sometimes my only recourse is to Lay on Hands. This drains all my mana, regardless of whether I'm full or empty, and I have no mana gem, no spirit-talent mechanic, no Innervate to get it back. All I can do is gulp down a mana potion and hope my MP/5 is enough to support the rest of the fight, because my measly <100 spirit isn't going to regen enough to matter. Just a gripe with paladin healing mechanics I thought I'd bring up...

  2. josh, true, but those talents are not available to every build. As well, since you also have the regular spirit regen available, those talents are necessarily less powerful than they could be.

    I know that all the spirit talents would have to be re-evaluated, but I'm kind of assuming that's just number crunching and testing.

    As for Lay on Hands, this is a really good reason to be melee'ing. JoW will get your mana back pretty quick. :)

    Plus, it's Lay On Hands, it's really a special case. Heh, once I got mana burned by Moroe's Shadow Priest at the very start of the fight and ended up in the same situation. Made it an interesting fight.

  3. You may know this already, but Spirit used to work roughly like you suggest, back in the WoW beta. The problem with this is that it quickly became overpowered: a healer could just stack enough Spirit and thereby never go OOM. Since a major limiting factor (arguably the major limiting factor) in most boss fights is a healer's mana pool, having infinite mana gives you near-infinite leeway in boss fights.

    In beta they solved this by implementing a Spirit "soft cap," a point past which one faced severely diminishing returns from Spirit. This is obviously a silly solution, and so they invented the 5SR. Which is even sillier.

    Personally, I play a Priest and enjoy the 5SR -- it leads to a tension between waiting to cast that heal to regain mana, and casting early so as to keep people from dying. Not doing stuff may not be fun, but actively holding off from doing stuff is kinda fun, if you see what I mean. It lends another dimension of strategy to playing a Priest. And if you don't want to deal with it, you do have the option to stack mp5 at the expense of Spirit. I know Priests that do that and they heal just fine.

  4. Interesting, well, it doesn't necessarily have to be a linear scale. You can always do a logrithmic scale like armor.

    As well, I don't really see how a priest can heal a heroic or a raid these days without constantly casting spells. The damage done by a raid boss or even a heroic mob is too great a percentage of the tank's health for a priest to wait 5 + x seconds between heals.

  5. Also, I can't really accept the argument that Spirit being constant regen would be overpowered, given that mp5 exists. To me, it just seems like the rate of regen per point of spirit would need to be tweaked.

  6. I agree the FsR is a horrible implementation. Go into Steamvaults with a group - and wait 5 seconds between casts on just the trash mobs, and you will have some very dead group members. I don't think that Blizzard meant to force 5-mans to include a main healer and a "off-healer".

    I would love to see them scrap the 41 point holy talent for a "holy form" where you get a increase in +healing and Mp5 - but you can't use any shadow abilities. IMHO

  7. Let's not forget Aspect of the Viper for Hunters... which is *another* mana regen ability, separate from everything else. It restores a percentage of your mana every tick and isn't modified by your Spirit or any other external values.

    I guess mana regen is a complex subject then, given that there's pretty much a different mechanic for each mana using class.

  8. You also forgot spirit tap (priets).

    Just because you don't like it
    doesn't mean its broke.

    It in their for balance. Its in there so mana users have to think about their point budget on gear. It there so people can use strategy in healing (healing rotation). I guess we could just keep your mana bar full then you would be happy and it wouldn't be "broke". Go play a FPS with a medic class.

  9. One thing you and Josh missed is the level 34 mage spell "Mage Armor". This gives us a 30% mana regened while casting effect (able to be increased to 45% with the talent Josh listed). I regen, on average, around 60+ mana every 3 seconds at level 70, while casting. Even more when I have buffs like Divine Spirit and Mark of the Wild.

    Also, mages have Evocation, which gives them 8 seconds of 1,500% mana regen ignoring the FSR during that time, but it's channeling, so you can only be recovering mana, not casting other spells.

    As Eliah mentioned, Spirit used to work differently originally. And since then, they have added different mechanics for each class that has mana to recover it while casting, with many of those being reliant on Spirit, thus limiting the effect of the FSR.

  10. When I play my rogue, I don't have that huge of an issue with regaining my mana. You guys must be doing it wrong or something.

    Seriously though, I understand where you're coming from with this. I think it's nice that a lot of talents/abilities/trinkets are making use of the spirit stat in different ways like +healing/+damage, etc.