Saturday, April 10, 2010

Proposed Eclipse Issues

From the Druid Preview:
Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.


Systems like this sound good at first, but they rarely work as intended. To see why, think of the proposed UI element as a state-machine, instead of a bar. You end up with a "chain" of linked states. Each state has two possible actions: an Arcane spell or a Nature spell. Casting an Arcane spell moves to the state on the right, and casting a Nature spell will move to the state on the left.

The key here is that for any given state, one of the two possible actions is better. In State 1, the best move will be an Arcane spell. In State 4, the best move will be a Nature spell. This is true no matter how you get to the state.

You will eventually end up oscillating between two states, regardless of how many possible states are in the chain. In State N, the best option is Arcane, which sends you to State N+1. In State N+1, the best option is Nature, which sends you back to State N. And then you bounce back and forth between those two states forever, regardless of how many possible states there are in the chain.

If you don't want this to be true, you need a third element--some *extra* buff or debuff--which in State N sometimes makes Arcane the best, and sometimes makes Nature the best. The state chain itself, and any bonuses or penalties inherent in the individual states, is not enough.

Of course, you can mitigate this a little. Maybe the new Nature Torrent spell jars you out of the oscillation and sends to a state much further up or down the chain. But then you'll still end up oscillating around a different point, until you get to Nature's Torrent again. I don't think this is really what Blizzard wants Balance druids to play like.

(I could be wrong, however. Maybe they do want Balance druids to go Wrath-Starfire-Wrath-Starfire-etc. The last line of the preview is inconclusive.)

Potential Solution

What I would do is relatively simple: All spells move the UI element in the same direction. At first, the bar would move towards Midnight. After Midnight, the bar would move towards Noon, then back to Midnight, and so on. During the Night, Arcane would get a bonus, with the highest bonus coming at Midnight. During the Day, Nature would get the bonus, with the highest bonus at Noon.

Of course, this makes Balance theorycraft pretty simple. Cast Wrath during the Day, and cast Starfire at Night. Maybe refresh Moonfire at Midnight and Insect Swarm at Noon. But simple might be best, if it still results in something more than a two-state oscillation, and is also easy for everyone to understand.


  1. If the damage bonus on either side of the bar is high enough, it would probably be worth spamming Wrath 5 times in a row to get the bar over to the far Arcane side, and then popping off a Starfall. I can see the timing to get Starfall coming off CD at the precise moment you reach the far end of the bar would be a nice challenge.

    Even more interesting would be if they replaced (or added on top of) the spell damage buffs an additional effect, like Haste with Nature side and Crit with Arcane side. (At least this way it will take people a bit longer to make an addon that reduces the entire bar to "Cast this spell now")

  2. I feel like you could also make this system work by providing stacking benefits, or benefits at the ends of the chain with a Cooldown. So when you go hit State 5, you get a +100% damage boost on your next spell, but that won't occur again for another X seconds, where X = the rough amount of time it takes to get to the other end of the chain and back.

  3. Juzaba, stacking benefits don't change anything, unless they are a third element outside the state chain.

    The cooldown you mention is a third element, but it also has the effect of making Balance timing very tight. If the balance druid has to run around, the cooldown might come up and the Eclipse meter is out of position. My understanding is that Blizzard wants Balance druids to alternate spells, but not be so dependent on timing as they are now.

  4. Even if it so that there ends up being a balancing point where alternating two spells leads to the most dps, or any other fixed rotation of awesomeness.. I'm fairly sure oomkin will welcome it over the current rng "I just got an eclipse proc right when I have to move" system.

    {recommented to say) Also, there are already a lot of blue posts on the subject of druids.. Pointing out that the bar might not be moving just based on spells cast; there are possibilities of things like damage done, or crits, or other more dynamic ways of moving the bar that could make the rotation less static. "We still don't want a rotation that is just 1111222211112222. " - from Ghostcrawler

  5. I think what the meter is about is keeping the balance, ie: the oscillation state should be state 0.

    So the ideal rotation is:

    Wrath, Moonfire... repeat

    However your other spells (which you want to cast) push this out of balance meaning you push back towards the balance state. If you push too far one way, you gain a buff to that side but lose out overall. This structure requires other spells though in your rotation.

  6. There is a fairly simple solution: crits move you more than one step (say 3 steps) along the chain.

    Say Eclipse has 8 states: 1-8, with 1 being the max towards lunar and 8 being the max towards solar. The sweet-spot in the chain is to cast Starfire at 3, and Wrath at 4.

    If you cast Wrath and crit however, you have just moved to 1 rather than 3. The optimal strategy is now to cast 3 Starfires to get back to the sweet-spot... unless that is any of them crits.

    Heavier movement on crits preserves an element of randomness in your rotation.

  7. I had imagined this eclipse mechanic to work similar to the Twin Val'kyr debuffs in ToC. You cast X amount of nature spells to gain Y% damage buff to arcane spells, and flip flop for the other eclipse.

    I'm not sure how clear this is, but I'll do my best to explain. Assume that the druid has to cast 4 of either school from the starting point to get a full eclipse. So using the numbers 1-9, each one corresponds to an exclusive debuff (similar to arcane blast) for where the druid is on the scale. 5 being the balanced natural state of the druid when entering combat.

    1 - 20% bonus arcane damage, nature eclipse buff
    2 - 15% bonus arcane damage
    3 - 10% bonus arcane damage
    4 - 5% bonus arcane damage
    5 - No debuff
    6 - 5% bonus nature damage
    7 - 10% bonus nature damage
    8 - 15% bonus nature damage
    9 - 20% bonus nature damage, arcane eclipse buff

    Now these appear to be large buffs (and can obviously change, the numbers are arbitrary), but the point is that when the druid reaches the extreme of either end they get an eclipse for the opposite school. These eclipse buffs have to blow the debuff boost out of the water to the point where the druid would be a fool to not consume it as quickly as possible. Rather than timed, the eclipse would be based on charges, preferably enough to get the druid back to the balanced state + 1 (in the particular example given, 5 charges) to nudge them towards the opposite eclipse. I did like the idea of crits moving the druid along twice as fast in the number chain, with the possibility of a 100% crit chance druid to spend their entire fights in one eclipse or the other.

    There's plenty of tweaking to be done of course, but this was my basic assumption upon hearing about the eclipse revamp. After hearing as much bitching as Blizzard has about eclipse, I'm sure they'll hammer it out just right.

  8. This state machine idea you have is so oversimplified that is has no value to me. Depending on how they implement the bar, I could imagine stacking up to one side or the other to load up a DoT effect, to prepare for a trinket/boss vulnerability/heroism, etc. Or they could simply implement a tradeoff between mana conservation and dmg by putting in another mechanic. Or, they could give one school a viable moving nuke, and make the other school the stationary school. Or they could make it so you cast nature spells putting you on the arcane side. Then, once you cast an arcane spell, you have to keep casting arcane spells and no nature spells, or the bar resets back to zero and you waste the progress you made up the bar. By assuming that their mechanic is reducible to this state machine, and then criticizing the state machine, what do you hope to show? That it's possible that Blizz may screw this up? I don't need a fancy diagram to tell me that.

  9. You forgot that there's a decay in the bar. This decay gradually reduces everything back to 0 (Midpoint between sun and moon. This would probably modify your state machine.

  10. Your assumption is that if you spam wrath it will do less damage on the other side than baseline. if the damage gain gets higher and higher the further you go up the bar, it should work just fine.

  11. You're assuming that each cast pushes the meter one direction by the exact same amount. I suspect it will depend on the amount of damage you do.

    As a simplified example, all your spells do 1000 damage. Say you start with an Arcane spell, which pushes you 1000 damage toward the Sun, and that confers a 5% buff toward Nature spells. You cast a Nature spell, and that does 1000 + 5% = 1050 toward the Moon, which gives a bit more than 5% buff, and so on. With a mechanism like that, you would want to try and push yourself deeper toward one direction initially, then start to alternate so that the buff oscillates.

    The distance toward the other direction that each spell moves you is likely to be different as well. It might be that your primary spells don't move you a lot toward one direction, but other spells eg the new Nature's Torrent one might move it significantly. Though the way that the torrent is described makes it sound like it moves you toward whichever direction is stronger, where 'normal' nature & arcane push it the opposite direction.

  12. Kurt, there's a ton of things they "could" do. I referenced this in my post when I talked about third elements. But I'm just going off the preview and current Moonkin spells.

    Iapetes, I'm specifically not assuming that.

    My assumption is that Blizzard doesn't want to see a small oscillation, and wants to see Moonkins move from one extreme of the UI to the other extreme. In my example, move from state 1 to state 5 and then back down to state 1.

    However, in that kind of scenario, the moonkin enters State 4 twice, once from the left and once from the right. However, she exits State 4 in two different directions. This is not optimal play. It does not matter how you enter a state, the best exit option depends solely on the state and the possible exits. Whether you enter State 4 from the left or the right, the best exit option will be the same.

    The only way this won't be true is if there is an external factor that was not mentioned in the Preview (effectively making the state chain I've shown not a "true" representation of the way moonkin state changes).

  13. I like the mage arcane blast style the up to 4 stacks if you want, but sometimes you need to use arc missles sooner because your missle barrage is about to time out.

  14. As a raiding moonkin, there's definitely that 'third factor' involved. Throwing out a couple extra wraths before applying your moonfire, or a few extra starfalls before applying insect swarm will happen repeatedly throughout the fight. You'd also want to stack it up to max before popping starfall or hurricane. Also, if the bonus per state isn't linear it will further encourage reaching the end when refreshing dots.

    Example states:
    1 - +20% nature damage
    2 - +10% nature damage
    3 - +5% nature damage
    4 - neutral
    5 - +5% arcane damage
    6 - +10% arcane damage
    7 - +20% arcane damage

    If it's no longer linear, you also have to calculate the sum of damage gained by going to the end of a side before switching back. Even if you only get that one spell at +20% damage, overall it should average out to more damage than if you fluctuated between the +5% median.

  15. it looks like they are copying the runekeeper's casting system from LOTRO. Maybe they have this in mind for certain raid progression where bosses or mobs will have resistance to particular types of dmg.

  16. One other thing I remember being mentioned was giving the player a way to 'choose' when to get their eclipse proc. If you get a minor eclipse bonus for maxing out a bar, it would be similar to the current system but you could time your eclipses based on what spells you cast. If you knew you had to move soon, you could alternate wrath-starfire-wrath-starfire until after the move, then push it over. Like if you maxed out one side, you'd get the max-bar bonus for the next 10 seconds instead of just the next spell.

  17. Part of their mistake is that the two different actions have the same output/side effect, namely damage. WAR had a meter like this on one (or more) classes, but the action choices were healing vs damage. That makes the choice more interesting, as the optimal action for the meter may not be the effect you desire at that moment.

  18. Kadaan, you don't have to oscillate around the middle. You can oscillate around the edges as well.

    For your example, consider a situation where you have Arcane/Nature DoTs that do 200 damage, and Arcane Nature nukes that do 100 damage.

    Then calculate how much damage you would do going end to end, versus just bouncing between state 1 and state 2. (Nature DoT, Arcane DoT, Nature Nuke, Arcane Nuke, repeat Nukes until time to refresh DoTs.)

    It turns out that oscillating between state 1 and 2 does more damage for the system you have given.

    For end to end to be better, given your system, the DoTs would need to do about 4x damage as a nuke. And the more states in the chain, the more the damage of the DoTs would need to increase.