Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A DPS Cap?

I had a really weird thought. What would the game be like if there was a cap on DPS?

I was following a discussion on Glyphs. The Healers were pointing out that they liked Glyphs because they could pick and choose from them. And this is true. Holy Paladins alone can choose from Glyph of Beacon of Light, Seal of Wisdom, Seal of Light, Holy Light, and Flash of Light. But DPS, on the other hand is much more restricted. As Gurgthock of EJ wrote, "The system doesn't work too well for DPS, though, just because generally DPS is a math problem and there is a right answer."

That's when it struck me: What if there wasn't one right answer?

The right answer is whatever combination yields the single highest DPS. But let's imagine a game where DPS is capped. You simply cannot do more than X damage-per-second. Any extra damage just disappears. Any solution which produces more DPS than the cap is a correct solution.

What would such a game look like? So long as you could reach the cap, DPS would have a lot more freedom in how they played, or glyphed. There's still an incentive to do more damage, because more DPS increases the number of free Global Cooldowns you have to do other stuff. But it's not as extreme an incentive as it is now.

Heh, maybe DPS players would start using stamina gems.

In WoW, the cap could go up as gear levels increased. Or it could be restricted by Tier. I.e. In Naxx, the cap is always 3000 DPS, in Ulduar 5000 DPS, etc.

It's an interesting thought experiment. But I wonder if DPS players would really like it. Would a new weapon be more interesting if it didn't make any appreciable difference? Would we miss being able to overpower older content? Would it make life harder as a good DPS player couldn't compensate for a poorer player?


  1. It would make the game fairly boring for the majority of players. Not just the DPS either - if there is a DPS cap then the tanks know they only need a certain amount of threat to hold aggro too. There also becomes no real incentive to be good at playing your class, just to be adequate, and would make everything feel extremely homogeneous and generally uninteresting. Boss encounters would always be exactly the same, with the boss dying in exactly the same way at exactly the same time assuming all DPS is at or above cap.

    I don't see any real positive gain for the idea.

  2. Not necessarily. A lot more emphasis would be put on survival and execution of special mechanics.

    I'm not saying that the cap should be excessively low that anything goes is acceptable. But it should be low enough that multiple playstyles or options will reach the cap.

    For example, take mages. Suppose the cap was low enough that Frostfire Bolt spec reached it. So would Arcane or Fire. Those builds might use different points or glyphs on playstyle effects.

  3. This is the greatest idea of managing DPS I've ever heard.

    However it's very much not "casual friendly". If people would demand DPS capped players the same way they demand def capped tanks, 80% of the playerbase would be excluded from any form of group play.

  4. The big problem is that it removes a lot of incentive to get better at playing after a certain point. In a sense, you can think of it as being like the defense or hit cap: you hit the cap and suddenly any more progress is completely worthless to your performance. I doubt that this is a good idea, especially if you want DPS to have a fully realized gradient of skill, instead of sucking to averaged to capped and done.

  5. Seems like it would make the game really boring. For one there would be no more dps race bosses. All boss encounters would have to be redesigned.
    Once you reached the cap what incentive is there to get new gear?
    It's the healers job to keep you alive, so perhaps they introduce new damage mechanics in boss fights and damage reduction talents for players, but to be honest that's not the game I want to play.

  6. I assume you're sort-of comparing this to the "healing cap", that you can't heal more damage than the boss is inflicting.

    But even that is a bit different.. if your healers are hitting the cap, sure, they can't heal any more - as a team. But they CAN have one of the healers respec to dps.

  7. Capping DPS wouldn't stop there being a right answer. Instead the defintion of "right" would change from "Does most DPS" to something like "Does at least X DPS AND has lowest mana consumption".

    However, a DPS cap would make having that right spec less important. So mana consumption might not be important for all fights.

    Also, there's a strong argument that the game designers should have a cap in mind, and use the nerf bat if anyone gets above it.

  8. I think its a great idea. People have commented that they think it would be boring, but i disagree. Imagine being able to play the dps spec you want and it being viable. The variety in itself would be awesome.

  9. I don't think a DPS cap would even work to remove having optimal specs. DPS over a five minute fight isn't exactly a straight line from start to finish. Cooldown usage, both personal and raid, boss health and procs have a large impact on dps. So where do you put the cap. If you put it too low, you make cooldown usage useless. If you put it high enough that cooldowns are useful, you will have some specs that are better than others because they can stay close to the cap for a larger period of time.

  10. The dps cap would be nice change for dps'rs who would enjoy bringing more to the table and using more of the "fun" abilities alloted to them.

    And yes there will always be a spec that is marginally better taking into consideration cd usage,procs,buffs, and debuffs, but if the cap lessened the gap between the specs a player would contribute w/o the "big" hit in numbers playing the spec they enjoy.

  11. Interesting idea but it would make the game much less interesting for good players.
    Good dps now already maximise their dps and decurse/heal/snare etc. while managing resource usage (some classes anyway) so all that would happen is the pressure comes off.
    The lame duck dps will reach the dps cap eventually and still wont be effective at anything else. So what will change?

  12. How about OverDPS as something to watch out for? Rather than one boss, have a few dozen, all highly resistant to AoE, so the DPS must focus each one down, but coordinate it and watch which spell they use, because if they start doing thousands of damage more per 'boss' than is needed, they're wasting time and mana and risking an enrage or OOM.

    @Gevlon: On your own blog you claimed that the average is at good as they have to be, so easy content produces unskilled players and hard content produces skilled player. Certainly some won't make the cut, but if we're currently in unskilled content, wouldn't it fit that most players would appear unskilled?

  13. If you think back to vanilla days when most guilds hadn't even gotten out of MC yet, this cap was pretty much the case. Blizzard had pretty good control over how much each class could dps by way of abilities. Your gear changed so seldom that you were essentially capped for quite a while.

  14. There's a certain sense in which a DPS cap exists already.

    Some bosses are DPS checks. Either you can do enough DPS to down those bosses, or you can't. Anything else is basically vanity or compensating for other people (both of which are entirely available to Healers as well).

    The idea that more DPS is always better is mostly a cultural one. Often the fights that put the most demand on the DPSers are the ones where they do the least damage.

  15. @ Aaron Jackson

    What would change is that "good" dps'rs would get to play the spec they enjoy rather than bring the spec that maximises their dps for the sake of the raid i.e. fotm spec.

    for many mm/sv hunters with wolves do you have running around currently. i dont play a hunter but it would be nice to see a hunter bring in a "Big Red" strider(ostrich) every once in a while.

    Variety is the spice of life :)

  16. While I agree that making a change that would allow DPS'ers more choice in their specs and glyphs would be nice, I don't think a DPS cap is a way to do it. What would you do with all those extra GCDs? Part of the challenge for DPS is to be able to stay alive, move out of bad stuff, deal with fight mechanics while continuing to pump out as much damage as possible. Taking this away so we only have to focus on one thing at a time would take away any semblance of challenge and make the game very boring.

  17. If we are talking about glyphs... not every dps class is as stringent as say an arcane mage. Alot of times which glyph is best depends on the situation at hand... and I don't see how that is a bad thing.

    Capping dps may bring about more variety in specs and utility... but ultimately what is it for? Once you hit the cap as a mage.. you can't all of a sudden start healing or tanking.

    The thing is... right now there is no such thing as wasted dps. The more you do the faster the boss dies and the more room for error you have in the encounter. Putting a cap on dps just makes the fights static and boring. You may as well just multibox 15 arcane mages because you can easily hit the cap and anything extra is pointless.

  18. I'd rather just see a larger number of glyphs that provide the same DPS bonus but give different flavor. Same with gear. Same with talents.

    I don't think healers have as much choice in glyphs as suggested. Depending on role, the best glyphs are well known and expected.

  19. Figuring out where to place the cap for any given 'tier' might be a tough one. Does Blizz place the cap assuming that everyone will reach it with minimal gearing, or place it high and assume people won't hit the cap until they've spent some while gearing up and seeing some of the later bosses in that tier?

    The former basically takes DPS (gear) checks of any kind off the table: the devs almost has to assume that the better groups will have most/all of their DPS at-cap shortly after setting foot into a new raid.

    The latter means that until groups gear enough to hit the gap, there will still be pressure for DPS classes to bring an 'optimum' spec. Also, if Blizz is relying on 'gear checks' to slow progression, groups that are clever enough to hit the cap early could easily throw the encounter tuning out of whack.

  20. Wouldn't work. From a player's perspective, once you hit your "DPS cap", you have virtually no reason to keep playing. Execution and memorizing mechanics will always happen in due time, regardless of the encounter. In fact, sleepwalking through a fight is usually the first thing to happen when raiding every week. Therefore, you can only put so much emphasis on the boss fight: it will eventually be memorized and no longer considered as an essential part of the encounter (much like how you've memorized where all your buttons are and likely have the GCD rhythm embedded into your hand-eye coordination; it's so second nature you hardly think about it). So obtaining new gear and causing more damage is the only thing driving DPS. Take that ability away, and you push PvE even further into the realm of being able to "faceroll" through content. Better gear will drop, it'll be easier and faster to hit that ceiling, rendering more and more of your play completely negligible. Eventually you'll only need 10-15 people in a 25-man raid.

    From a developer's point of view, it pretty much shuts creativity down completely. At first you might think, "Well if they can simply assume all DPS will be hitting that magical cap, then they can focus on making a boss encounter really great!" But actually, the reverse is true. Assuming everyone will be doing the same DPS removes the need for enrage timers, burn phases, compensating for buffs, debuffs, etc. If everyone is doing the same DPS and everyone is executing the fight mechanics properly (which always inevitably happens), then all you have left is trying to draw out the fight for the sole purpose of making it not seem short and cheap. This is why Blizzard removed so many of the "phase" mechanics in current 5-mans: it wasn't challenging having to smash a boss in the face with your great skill and gear only to have it take three times longer than it should. Like Ghostcrawler said, they could make Anomalus have 30 Chaotic Rift phases, but that wouldn't be challenging. It would be boring.

    DPS is one of the few unpredictable and unquantifiable variable of raiding (the others being healing output and to a lesser extent, tank survivability). Plus, having a DPS cap would mean there would be a tank threat cap, which would make tanking even MORE boring than it is now. The chain effect of a DPS cap would be negative across the board.

    Think of it this way: If you made every car in the world only able to go 30mph (DPS) and only able to take one certain path (the fight mechanics), would you even care about driving anymore? Much less like it?