Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hybrid Theory: Fluid vs Modal

This post is inspired by a thread on the WoW forums. Unfortunately, I can't find that thread anymore. I really should start bookmarking good threads.

Imagine you have a DPS warrior in a lower level instance. Suddenly the tank goes down. What do you do?

You swap in a shield, taunt, and take over tanking. You probably aren't as good as the tank, but you can substitute well enough to finish the fight.

In this case, you are acting as a "fluid" hybrid, able to switch from one role to another while in the same fight.

The other extreme type of hybrid is a "modal" hybrid. A modal hybrid can switch from one role to the other, but not in the same fight.

A lot of people roll hybrids because they want to be fluid hybrids. To be able to equip a shield and take up tanking if the tank gets into trouble. To be able to drop back and support the healers. But, increasingly WoW hybrids are becoming modal hybrids. Your paladin can be a healer for this fight, or a tank, but you have to choose before the fight starts.

Indeed, the fluid hybrid disappears totally at endgame. All that's left is modal hybrids.

I think this theory goes to the heart of my current dissatisfaction with the paladin class. I rolled and played as a fluid hybrid, especially in 5-mans. But now, hybrids are almost entirely modal. For this instance run, I am a pure tank. For this boss fight, I am a pure healer.

The interesting question becomes why have hybrids in WoW gone almost entirely over the modal side?


  1. Gear dependence.

    Your choice of gear is quite limited early on - you either have stats or you have damage/healing/resistance. Gear won't have so much effect on performance in whatever role a hybrid needs to be in at any given fight.

    Come endgame content, you have much more to choose from in gear (getting both stats and bonuses) and need to wear whatever is appropriate for your current role against a given boss in order to progress smoothly. At this point, gear has significant impact on performance.

    You can still find and wear a set that will give you maximum fluidity, but you will not be as effective in any particular role. By choosing one set over another for a given fight to become most effective in a particular role, you are sacrificing not only the benefits of the set you leave in your packs, but also your fluidity.

    If you lose your fluidity, why be a hybrid in the first place? Talents spent on one side are likely to be useless (or at least not the best choice) when you swing to the other. And so you'd be better off respeccing for whatever position you are needed for and hopefully be in the same position for a while (and at least throughout a given raid).

    By being a hybrid, you are claiming (and quite rightly so, I'm sure) that being dynamic adds more to the raid than being most effective in any pure build. To then limit your ability to be dynamic by choosing "modal gear" is kind of a contradiction.

  2. Joanadark/Brekke9:35 PM, May 12, 2007

    "[i]The interesting question becomes why have hybrids in WoW gone almost entirely over the modal side?[/i]"

    -The proportion of our stats which come from gear rather than base values. For example, there is a massive difference between the stamina levels of a DPS warrior in DPS gear and a Tanking warrior in tanking gear. If baseline paper doll health is 100, a dps-geared player might sit at 200 and a tanking-geared player might sit at 550. A state where the comparison was more like 130 verses 180 with a 100 baseline, fluidity of role when you arent necessarily wearing the ideal gear/talented appropriately would be more possible.
    Druids are often quoted as one of the more successful fluid hybrids since their forms do multiplicative changes which convert the same stats used for a different role into the final state of the specialized function. An example would be a feral druid shifting from kitty to bear. Both cat (melee DPS) and bear (tanking) forms are optimized by stacking roughly equivalent gear. The same stats (such as agility) are used for both, just applied in different ways depending on form. It is perfectly reasonable for a feral druid who was happily DPSing could, seeing an emergency, shift into bear instead and be roughly at the same level of viability as they would have been if they had been planning on tanking originally.

    Notice also some of the talent functionality in the druid trees, notably some of the resto talent which have cross-role benefits to feral, or the balance talents which are benefitial to resto.

    This has it's limits though. It is near impossible to do a fluid shift from a non-healing role into a healing role (except moonkin to limited extent) due to the complete incompatability of healing stats with any other function.
    While, for example, a melee DPSer is getting cit chance and AP from the stat agility, if the assume a tanking role, the same stat, agility, is also providing them with armour and dodge chance.

    +healing is unique in that it is the only stat with utterly no benefit granted to any role [i]except[/i] one; healing.
    especially as we reach end-game, +healing becomes so utterly essential to heal anywhere near effectively it suffocates attempts to make a healing/something-else fluid hybrid who will "stop DPSing and throw out heals as needed".

    helpful changes to increase fluidity:
    -increase baseline effects of abilities and reduce the extent that stats like +spell damage or +healing contribute to their effects.
    -systems like the druid forms and cross-role benefitial talents which allow the same stats or stat distribution to contribute to more than one role at a viable effectiveness.
    -things like blessing of light or imp lotp, which grant benefits unfiltered through the gear or setup of the one taking advantage of them.

  3. As an elemental/resto hybrid shaman, I definitely see this issue. I refuse to spec full elemental because I don't see the totem of wrath being worth the loss of my nature's swiftness. I refuse to spec full resto because even though earth shield is extremely awesome, I don't want to lose my elemental mastery or my mana regen talent.

    Elemental and Restoration trees for shamans make it very easy for this talent build to work to make me similarly effective in both, with a good number of talents useful for both DPS and healing roles. Nature's Swiftness is vital for throwing out an instant emergency heal, but it is also very cool when combined with elemental mastery to make an instant, free, crit chain lightning (cue maniacal laughter). There are five points in restoration that increase the crit chance of both lightning and healing spells. There is a talent in elemental that gives me 10% of my intellect as mana/5, very useful as a healer. So my talent spec is not a serious problem, it actively encourages me to act as the hybrid I am.

    But the problem always comes down to gear. As I increase in level and start going to harder and harder instances, my ability to switch fluidly between the two goes down with the amount of +healing I need to have in order to be taken seriously.

    I hate the question "how much +healing does your healing gear have?" Don't care that I have more mana than you, or that I have more mana/5 than you, or that I'm (most likely) better than you and more skilled at healing. You apparently have 100 more +healing on your gear, so you're going to insist on healing. If not for this stupid stat that is (unlike every other stat on my gear) completely useless for anything other than healing, I could be a very effectively fluid hybrid.

    +Healing is the problem for me. I say that all +healing should be removed, and replaced with a kind of +X damage & +Y healing kind of stat so it could be useful for both sides of the hybrid without losing out on the extra amount you get from pure +healing. They could even restrict it to nature or holy spells, so that it would still be specific to a certain class. If they're willing to give us feral druid-specific staves that aren't good for any other class/spec, then having +nature damage/healing wouldn't be so out of the question, right? Nice for pallies too, having +holy damage/healing.

  4. The reason that all hybrids are modal is a function of the terrible itemization approach.

    iLevel and item budgets screw over hybrids and reward dps classes. This has become such a problem that Blizzard has now abandoned single sets for hybrid classes.

    In other MMO's, gear progression is "pareto superior." That is, each new tier of gear is superior for all purposes to a previous tier of gear.

    In WoW, each tier of gear is only superior for whatever particular purpose it is dedicated to.

    As a result, each serious raider needs many, many multiple sets of specialized gear.

    Because only hunters can change gear in combat, excepting shields and weapons -- there are no fluid hybrids, only modal hybrids.

    This hurts Shaman, Paladins, Warriors and Priests the most -- these classes are meant to shift between roles on the fly.

    Druids are also designed to shift on the fly, but their forms are much more powerful than say defensive stance v. berzerker stance.

  5. Joanadark/Brekke11:32 AM, May 14, 2007

    Another important point is the concept of min/maxing in and of its self raising the question "why exactly would you NEED to switch roles in combat at all?"

    The thing is, the amount of tanks needed by an encounter is a finite amount. If one NPC needs to be tanked, its fairly predictably that you only tank.

    Min-maxing then goes on to say that you need to figure out, based on the damage-mitigation and smoothing the tank(s) can provide, what the minimum number of healers needed to keep her up in the face of the damage they will be siphoning.

    One less healer required makes for one more DPS tht can be brought, meaning that the boss dies proportionally sooner, in turn decreasing the amount of mana conservation the healers need to do to last the reduced length of the fight, meaning potentially fewer healers...etc.

    So the question becomes "what circumstances would being able to fluidly switch between one role and another be benefitial, compared to simply locking in to one dedicated role?"

    If a hybrid is a tank, they have no reason for fluidity, since they are tanking. There should never be excess tanks, since by definition a tank is ONE person siphoning all damage the boss deals through themself.
    If a hybrid is healing, they shouldnt have a need for fluidity, since if they are doing their job there will be no need to replace a tank, and if they are not needed to be constantly healing in order to keep the tank up, they should have been DPSing the entire time.

    A DPS hybrid is the only potential area where fluidity is even helpful, and even then only in the limited sense of switching to a healing role, normally only in relation to healing yourself or your party in order to allow the primary healers to not be distracted by peripheral damage being taken and therefore allow fewer healers to do the healing required to keep the tank alive.

    For fluidity to even serve a purpose, encounters would have to be multi-stage affairs where one part would NEED a large amount of healing/tanking players, but then another stage NEED a large amount of DPS to be successful which would make simply bringing that number of tanks/healers unfeasible.

    The best example I can think of this is C'thun, or possibly Kel'Thuzad, as both fights have segments of the encounter where there are requirements for multiple tanks and healing (Large Tenticles in the case of C'thun, and the Anubisath Guardians in the final phase of KT), but especialy in the case of C'thun that requirement dissapears during the Weakened timers, and suddenly a massive amount of DPS out-pouring is needed and even players who were previously tanking or healing need to contribute to that if the encounter is going to be successful.

  6. This post prompted me to post a related post on my blog. Check it out if you want.

    Anyway, I ended with a summary which I'm going to post here (mostly a response to they question of why make hybrids modal instead of fluid): Fluid hybrids cannot be equal power to single purpose classes, for game balance. In raids, underpowered classes or specs would (and are) shunned. Balanced fluid hybrids would never see endgame except in limited circumstances. Making hybrids modal allows them to be brought up to similar or equal power as a single purpose class without disturbing game balance too much, thus allowing them a place in endgame.

  7. Joanadark,

    I would have to completely disagree as to your theory of hybrids.

    Hybrids, if encounters were designed "properly", would be able to step into any spot at any given time. Having played a druid for 2.5 years, I have seen the ability to do this in 5 mans and even the 20 mans (ZG and AQ), but it has never been a possibility in the 40s and now the 10s and 25 mans due to a VERY specialized role that you would be playing. If I had wanted to heal I would have rolled a priest, if I had wanted to strictly tank I would have rolled a warrior, and if I had wanted to nuke I would have rolled a mage. I didn't though, I rolled a druid. Why? Because I wanted to heal, tank, and nuke. I wanted to be able to do a bit of each. Maybe not as well as the priest, warrior, or mage (the trinity)but close and as a worthy person to bring along to a raid.

    As for stacking "roughly equivalent gear" as a druid for feral [LOUD BUZZER] sorry come again. Swapping from cat to bear in catform gear can be devestating (even with t4 and up) and switching from bear to cat form in all tanking gear is like throwing a rock into the Mississippi, you may cause ripples but you will never see them.

    What I am trying to say is that a fluid hybrid is not possible because blizzard makes them not possible due to the itemization of gear. When playing WoW (I have quit), I played as a true hybrid (31 resto, 30 feral). I could tank and heal (but not in the same gear). I have played a balance resto build as well (still basically useless without a completely different set of gear due to the substantial difference in +dmg and +healing). Blizzard end game content, even more so with TBC, requires fairly specific compositions. Look at the Gruul fight before it was nerfed into the ground. Guilds were bringing on average 2-3 melee classes (of which none would be hybrids). The only thing a druid became good for was as a tank (10k crits oh fun with less mitigation than the warriors) and being a healbot. Guilds would stack on healers and ranged DPS and I can almost guarantee a oomkin would not be allowed in that group. Why? Little to no threat mitigation and DPS that simply cannot stand up to a mage/decked out hunter without some amazing gear. Hell even shadow priests are out dpsing druids when they were originally designated at the main healers in the game.

    Why does this all come about? Itemization. Blizzard simply doesn't look at fluid hybrids as valuable additions to a raid hence doesnt make the gear available to do so. This furthers the idea of you must play your "class." If you are specced even one extra point in healing you should heal. If you are 1 extra point in feral you should tank (haha kitty dps).

    I mean look at hybrids pre-TBC...or should I say healers that were tagged as hybrids...

  8. "If I had wanted to heal I would have rolled a priest, if I had wanted to strictly tank I would have rolled a warrior, and if I had wanted to nuke I would have rolled a mage. I didn't though, I rolled a druid. Why? Because I wanted to heal, tank, and nuke."

    You know...its funny, because most druids I have talked to rolled their character primarily because they just wanted to turn into a kitty...

    only real differences between cat form gear and bear form gear is that straight AP doesnt translate into bear. Meaning you should have been stacking agility for the exact same AP benefit, on top of the fact that most straight AP gear is rogue leather anyway.

    It wouldnt be optimzed certainly. I might normally have a high stam ring with armour on it that I wear in bear rather than this one with agil and +hit, but there is no massive shift in the stats required. Notice that even on the tier sets, theres only one set for feral, not two.

    I have no idea where you are getting "druids have less mitigation than warriors" from.

    "...never been a possibility in 40s..."

    I can think of multiple times in progressing through 40-mans where paladins and druids in my guilds did exactly that.
    The very first Rag kill I ever participated in, a first for that guild, saw me tanking the last 9% on my paladin when the MT went down. Paldins regularly taunted off and held steady loose adds like giants and firewalkers who sart rampaging among the healers until a mt could catch up and relieve them.
    My most recent guild's moonkin deliberately greared herself fluidly, stacking massive intellect and spell crit instead of a ton of +damage so that she could alternate between dps and healing as needed.

    One time I personally was last one standing on a VtC kill, which should have been a heart-breakng wipe on 1% if all paladins in healing gear are good for is standing there passively healing.

    I've seen a rogue tank Instructor Razuvious. Theres a player on my server who's warlock did a 5-man Loetheb with no healers at all. I've seen a priest get dragon aggro and miraculously dodge 7 times in a row until the boss died.

    I've tried all kinds of crazy experimental ways of doing new bosses. non-traditional ways.

    I have to contest that this game is nearly as rigidly min/maxed as people sometimes pretend.

  9. Well put. Though it may be human nature that we try to stack raids with the optimum class arrangement for each encounter, there are still times and places where a quick-thinking hybrid can pull off a miraculous save of the raid.

    You can't blame the raid leaders for trying to stack the raid with the best possible arrangement of tanks, healers and dps. It's what I'd do if I were in their position.

    But there are those beautiful moments when you realize that a group without a hybrid would actually have a much harder time of it. Case in point, in Arcatraz yesterday, we went with a prot warrior, holy priest, rogue, mage and me, feral druid. There are only 2 really tough encounters in there (once you learn the others) in my opinion. The first is a set of 2 robots, which requires either someone kite one while the other's killed, or two tanks. We 2-tanked it.

    The second is the last boss, which is extremely difficult for a single healer, regardless of spec (though depending on gear of course). So I switched into healing gear and helped heal it. Went beautifully, we didn't wipe once, where most runs entail at least one wipe, either on the dual robots or on the last boss. (Ok the meteor guys also cause wipes, but not if everyone does what they're supposed to.)

    In conclusion, this is just one example of where being a hybrid pays off. And I don't mind being a modal hybrid rather than a fluid hybrid if this is the result. All I have to do is switch gear and I'm an effective healer/tank/dps.

    Also agree to the post above, although it would be nice to be able to switch gear mid-battle, it wouldn't be fair. It's enough for me to be able to switch just before an encounter to fill whatever role is most needed.

    I personally think they've done an excellent job balancing hybrids with pure classes, still giving us enough viability to compete, but not making us "all-in-one" to such an extent that it makes pure classes superfluous. (Though I like to imply that as often as possible... "all ya need are more dr00ds"). hehe.

  10. I'm doing my best for gearing my elemental/resto shaman for some fluidity. High int(which gives elementalist mana regen), crit and to a lesser extent +spell damage/healing. Not that it will make me into a Holy Priest or anything but I will at least gain a decent hybrid function.

  11. Hybrid classes have been the topic of debate for so long it's rediculous. Feral druids whine about the itemization they have, Paladin tanks complain about the lack of life they have, and Shamans are unhappy with how they have to throw in heals instead of just stormstriking 24 hours a day.

    A druid can offtank just fine in cat/healing gear for a short while , just as it would suggest, being a HYBRID class, and not an actual tank. As a paladin, if I am in Kara and a tank dies on say, a Flesh beast, I can toss on righteous fury, taunt it onto myself, and heal tank through it until it can be brought under control. If the healers go down on a Gruul pull, an elemental shaman can and should throw out some heals. Same with a shadow priest.

    The problem with hybrids is the actual player's unwillingness to play anything other than the roll they are set for, and to be honest, sometimes I can't blame them. If you are in a raid s lot, you are slotted in for a reason. No one will EVER slot someone in as a "Healer and Tank", or "DPS and off healer" because if you have to fill your raid slots like that, you are doomed to failure. You are doing your job. If someone else goes down, you are a hybrid, so you are expected to help out in other ways.

    Some people don't see that. Shadow priests will stick in shadow and watch the raid die because they are set on doing damage. Druid tanks not actively tanking something will leave someone dead instead of shifting out to Brez/Innervate people. Elemental shamans will keep lightning bolting instead of throwing a quick heal on the tank to help out the healers on a Prince Malc thrash session, letting the raid wipe because they want to see big crits.

    It's all in the mentality of the player that makes a hybrid effective and efficient. :)

  12. I agree with this theory of different types of hybrids, but I have some of my own analysis I'd like to add. First of all, this really well puts into words an answer to a lot of confusion some people have on hybrids. People think hybrids should never get too close to the parent classes they mimick. With this theory, it's easy to say that modal hybrids should be extremely close to being on par with the parent class, while a fluid hybrid should be a bit farther off.

    This is because there are two types of versatility. There's a more general type, where you can fulfill multiple rolls, and there's role-specific versatility. The pure classes and play styles get a lot of things that help them with that specific task that people trying to hybrid with it don't have. Really, a modal hybrid should be able to pump out about the raw numbers of a pure parent class, but not have some of the things that the parent class has. The general versatility modal hybrids have makes up for the specific versatility we don't, and vice verse. Fluid hybrids go even farther than exchanging specific versatility for general versatility. Fluid hybrids exchange much of the raw numbers they could be able to pump out with more specific gear for even more general versatility. This is what people usually think of when talking about hybrids.

    One problem, though: modal hybriding works pretty well in World of Warcraft, but fluid hybriding really doesn't. For the most part, talents and skills are set up pretty well for it, but the gear just isn't out there.

    I think the way Blizzard can fix this is by making the one thing you can change in combat - your weapon - worth a larger ammount of your stats.

    Think about it. If you are a pure class or modal hybrid, then you max out your gear in whatever you need at that point in time, and have a weapon that also maxes out what you need. Someone wanting to be a fluid hybrid, though, could instead choose to spread out most of their gear, say having both healing stats and damage stats mixed together in their armor, of course having less of each than a pure set of armor, but then they can change their weapon between a healing weapon and a damage weapon as needed. I think this is a relatively easy way to provide for both types of hybrids.

    An example is a warrior with a shield vs a warrior without one. The shield adds a ton of armor relative to each piece of the rest of the gear, and the shield itself provides an entirely new source of mitigation - blocking - to the warrior. The shield also has stamina and other survivability stats, and most likely, the 1-hand chosen to match the shield also has tanking stats. In this way, the shield/1-hand combination offers a way to quite effectively fluid hybrid. Now, if a warrior didn't want to fluid hybrid, then all of the rest of their gear will be dps stuff, but if they did want to fluid hybrid, then they would mix up their stats between tanking and dps. This is the best already existing example I can think of. This would just be a larger difference for all types of weapons.

    This is at least one way I think that Blizzard could make being a fluid hybrid much more viable, without giving them too much of an advantage over a "pure" style of play. The transfer from weapons being about equal to being a lot more of your stats might be a bit rough, but I think it could be done, and it would allow fluid hybriding to be viable.

  13. Joanadark posed the question

    "why exactly would you NEED to switch roles in combat at all?"

    and then goes on to explain why hybrids are really not needed in raiding at all. she made some valid points but her arguement was based on fighting in encounters with only one stage. if you've dabbled in WoW end-game at all you know that the one stage encounters are few and far in between.

    in a fight like Gruul where you need 1 tank and 1 Off-Tank, some healers and some DPS it makes perfect sense that switching roles is not needed at all therefore you don't *NEED* a hybrid. but then you get to Magtheridon. you need tanks for all of the channelers for the first part. so do you bring all tanking warriors or prot pallies or bear druids? what do they do after they are done their assigned tanking job? a paladin tanking an add in the begining can then help healers heal later tanks who are taking more damage and heal the MT on mag so could a druid. a druid or warrior hybrid could also switch roles to DPS the later adds and then magtheridon.

    mag was just one example but blizzard likes to desing fights with alot going on and alot of changes. usually you only need one tank on a boss but that isnt the case all the way through the fight and you need some people to be able to handle certain duties in any given fight and then be able to also fill another role when the other duties are done.

    i would argue that in most cases a hybrid class is more desirable than a pure class because of the way fights in WoW are set up. a pure tanking warrior who is needed to tank a mob only at one or a few points during a fight becomes almost useless when he is not needed to tank if he cannot switch roles to something more useful.