Thursday, February 23, 2012

Enrage Timers and Meters

So, there's a little bit of a kerfuffle over DPS and enrage timers in The Old Republic hardmode dungeons. See Screaming Monkeys, Tobold, and Spinks.

The thing is that SWTOR doesn't have a combat log or DPS meters. So there's really no way for a DPS player to truly judge her performance. So we don't know if the enrage timers are actually tight, or the DPS players are simply not performing at a high enough level.

The variance between DPS can be huge. It's not like people are performing at 89% of theoretical max and they need to get to 90%. Very often, because of improper rotations and incorrect use of cooldowns, a decent player who isn't conversant with the best theorycraft might only be performing at 50% or less of the theoretical max.

And the DPS rotations in SWTOR are not trivial. I had a rotation for my Sniper that I was happily using. It seemed to be the best I could come up with. Then I went to and looked at their rotation. It was structured very differently than what I was using, and involved several abilities that I wasn't using. I switched, and I think my damage went up significantly.

Though, truthfully, because there are no meters and no combat log, I have no idea if what I'm doing now is better. It's better on paper, and seems to be better in game, but who knows.

Again, we hit a theme that I've hitting for years now. Good play requires feedback. Good dps requires feedback. And the best feedback for DPS is a combat log and damage meters.

But if you don't want damage meters, if you think they are detrimental, then you should not have DPS checks like enrage timers. Having strict enrage timers without meters strikes me as unfair to the DPS players.


  1. Well, in theory I agree with Tobold's premise that DPS checks help spread the stress around, relieving the pressure on the tanks and healers. Similarly, I agree that absence of DPS meters means the blame for failure gets spread around even more, so no one feels like the "bad guy."

    But then a part of me feels compelled to say, "they're just DPS; they're easily replaced; who cares if they feel better about themselves or not?" Harsh, but true. And yes, I primarily play DPS (Ranger in EQ2, DPS Rogue in Rift), though I've dabbled in tanking (Guardian in LOTRO) and healing (Bear Shaman in Age of Conan). I know exactly how replaceable I am; and it doesn't bother me one bit.

    Then there's the issue of fairness. True, it's not fair to the DPS to expect them to "get better" and then deprive them of the best tool for doing so (a DPS meter). Again, sure, they're just DPS and easily replaced. But how are you supposed to figure out which ones are the "good ones?" Keep trying the content over and over with different DPS until you find a group that works and then never change that group? That's pretty primitive. It reminds me of the way archers used to test out bows in Asheron's Call before the bows' damage mods were finally made public information in the tooltips (sometime in 2000).

    So I'll come down in favor of DPS races and enrage timers, but only if there are combat logs (and the subsequent parsers and DPS meters) so you can actually FIX the problem if you're not beating the content. The problem generally isn't with DPS meters themselves, anyway; it's with the way some players choose to use them to exclude their "inferiors" from participating in content, and the fact that they often broaden the definition of "inferior" well beyond the needs of the content.

    In other words, being able to measure the ability of DPS players isn't the Bad Thing; arbitrarily excluding average, or even above average, DPS players from groups due to unnecessarily stringent expectations is the Bad Thing. Frankly, I wouldn't want to play in a group with someone who thinks that way anyway; so being excluded from their groups could really be seen as a Win-Win situation for everyone involved ;^)

  2. Yes, exactly.

    Just like the whole "Hate leads to anger" thing, difficult content necessarily leads to players taking content seriously, which divides those players away from those who don', which leads to player stratification, which leads to EJ and e-peen.

    It's an inherent property of difficulty in group-based MMOs.

  3. I agree with you completely. Without access to the combat log, proper analysis of a group's performance is impossible. This means that the content needs to be tuned around the lowest common denominator, in this case, the Sith Warrior named Vaderlol who only spams assault because it worked for his barbarian in Diablo II.

  4. Hehe DPS without a damage meter....

    ....more or less as tanking or healing without seeing the health bar :)

  5. Until I started doing Operations recently I was dead-set against damage I see we kinda need them, but not only damage meters, healing too please - trying to do Soa with two badly geared healers is a lot of fun, especially with only 1 sage, other being a trooper. At times it looked like the sage was solo healing we went down do fast. Healing meters would have helped a bunch there. Being able to move bars around would make healing a damn sight easier as well.

  6. DPS isn't only about DPS; it is also about utility. Dispelling, leap of faith, off tanking, healing. I play shadow priest in 10m guild, we have about 15 players in guild and we rotate but my primarily utility for the group isn't my buffs and debuffs (they're not unique). I provide a mana hymn for our healers therefore I am not easily replaced during progression. They did try it on farm but they came back from that. Now the officers don't take the risk anymore. They did not tell me this, but I know it.

    Being part of a rotation prevents slacking because of a psychological trick: you get not to play, they down content without you. It confirms the truth that you are not needed, expendable. Everyone is expendable, even a healer or tank. Those just require more effort, and might not be expendable on short term (that moment in the evening, but sunday will be, or we may need to recruit another tank/healer, or use someone's OS).

    In MoP mana hymn is gone from shadow priest, and we don't have a lock, so I may reroll to something which provides some neat utility. Speaking of warlocks and utility I don't have DI. Nor 10% SP, nor always 8% more magic damage so it is difficult to get ranked. In a static fight like Ultraxion HC it is easy to do a DPS check, though since there is no multi dotting involved I should not come up top. My 4set relies on me standing still. I do need to work around heroism at start like our healers do.

    On Warmaster HC the problems arise. We are melee heavy. I am bad at multi dotting because of the combination of target switching, running into small (and big) swirls. It requires quick reflexes and decision making, and here I fail to soak the small ones and kill the drakes in time. My 4set (fiend) requires me to stand still; not really possible here. The charges are easy to avoid, but the fire (and certain other graphics) makes them hard to see. After every try our raid leader calls out how quick the drakes went down, who ate which swirls, how many the ship took. We don't come further than the 3rd set of drakes. Which we don't reach often.

    Add to that some bugs in the AI of shadowy apparitions akin to the bugs the fire and earth elemental totems have: if they cannot reach the target they won't run to another, they will stand still doing nothing. Very frustrating with 4set. My fiend also sometimes does not proc for whatever reason. On MoP normal it even dies, I cannot rely on it to nuke down the tentacle. And if the tentacle isn't down in time I cannot rely on it to nuke down the bolt either. I tend to use it to nuke down the blistering.

    Back to ship HC. We down all the farm content on farm evening, and then are stuck 2 raid nights here. Morale is low. We have combat logs, recount, death log, WoL at our disposal. Every player knows how to play their class though we are not a hardcore raiding guild. We have only 1 legendary staff (not me, btw). Yet we are not able to do this fight for the past weeks, and I doubt we will with 10% nerf. It is a brick wall we've hit. I don't think it'll be Warmaster the guildkiller in our case, but some drama did arise. I try to be positive at start of every evening, theory craft, bring humor, but I quickly become tired from the fight. Mentally exhausted, too. We'll see.

  7. I am a Sith Healer in SWTOR and my guild has been running HM FP's for about 2 weeks. I have found that as far as the enrage timer goes it helps that even as a healer I have significantly more DPS than I did as a healer (Shaman) in WOW. I think this was intentional on Bio's part to help with just this sort of thing. Yes we wipe but after learning what I need to do as far as healing is concerned, I find that I can throw in the occasional DOT and Lighting Attack and help beat the enrage timer. I think this is all part of their plan for us to work as a team. I like DPS meters and don't think there a bad thing, but I don't find them necessary. They are Hard Modes for a reason.

  8. It's amazing to me that WoW has gone 7 years without implementing some kind of dps tracker into the default ui. Granted, it took until sometime in WotLK before they got a threat one in. Something that just shows you your actual DPS, theoretical calculated DPS, and actual damage done; so you can see where you are. Maybe provide the raid leader with a more robust recount-ish gadget for deeper analysis and tracking. The lack of feedback is almost a cliche now, but it really is true...other than the general feedback of successful fight or wipe, dps get almost nothing from the game.

  9. Rades,
    The theory here is sound; a good game provides feedback, and in fact feedback is a common theme in many different developer's very definition of the word game. Still, I dispute that the only kind of feedback in this case is numerical metrics.

    How about borrowing something from a totally different genre of gaming, like my wife's Wii Zumba? When she's performing within 90% of max, her character is highlighted in green. When she's between 60% and 90%, shades of yellow, and below 60%, shades of red. There's absolutely no reason a similar, personal system couldn't be implemented to let each individual player know, based on the minimum dps requirements for the fight, how they're individually performing. That provides the feedback you need without the immediate consequence of creating a hostile environment.

    Alternatively, dps could be measured simply as percentages after an attempt, successful or otherwise. Without specific numbers, a simple percentage of who did what could be displayed, allowing a minimal amount of feedback, but certainly enough to gauge where you belong. Even within that; leaderboards could be set up with rankings for each boss, showing what number you rank at individually.

    If what we want is feedback, then fine, you certainly deserve it. If what you want it the ability to judge if others are succeeding or failing, I'm not sure how I feel about that. The very nature of PuGs is distrust due to that type of thinking. I understand how frustrating it is not to be able to figure out what's going wrong (I struggled with that on my fire mage; I felt I was doing exactly what I'd been told from my enormous about of reading and research; I'd basically perfected the timing of my rotation and CD use, and still I was stinking it up), but the nature of being "good" sometimes means being vulnerable. I realize that some people choose efficiency over goodness, but that's not a game I want to participate in, nor the kind of people I want in my games.

    So, is there a compromise that can be reached?


  10. @Matt: WoW "chickened out" the problem of providing a damage meter in a very simple way: allow addons and let people deal with the problem. It also saves them a ton of development costs and headaches.

    @Stubborn: sorry, it doesn't work: either something is important and you have the tools to work on it, or it's not important and then the tools are not required. If you put in tight enrage times, then you must provide people with tools to train/study/improve their play. And these tools inevitably can lead to finger-pointing.

    What I don't understand is why people feel obliged to deal with it: in real life when you meet finger-pointing people you avoid them or ridicule them, the same approach works fine in MMOs....

  11. I don't know, when you put it like that I can't really agree. DPS players do get feedback - namely whether the boss dies before they do or not! I find the idea that anything not expressed in exact numbers doesn't count as feedback kind of absurd. By this logic it would be impossible to be a good healer without metres either, because you don't have any numbers telling you which of your spells have the highest hps, never mind whether you keep people alive or not.

    The problem is not that there is no feedback, it's that as soon as there are multiple people working on the same thing, it gets all mixed up and you can't tell who did how much of the work. I think that the Eternity Vault raid solved this quite elegantly by making the fourth encounter one where each member of the raid has to kill their own mob, which is basically a performance check just before the final boss to see who's doing well and who's lagging behind, no metres needed. It's just a shame that this isn't really feasible to do before every important encounter. Still, I think it proves that it's not a do or die situation where you either need metres or dps has to be completely irrelevant.

  12. Well, I consider tangled or bad feedback to be worse than no feedback.

    As Stubborn said, you don't need formal DPS meters. A green/yellow/red light system for individual players, tuned for each boss, would be more than enough feedback.

    You might not even have to display the state to the entire group. Just showing the individual player her performance would be enough.

  13. Excellent post, and so very true.

    Anyone that has done LFR in WoW or just seen the damage meters from it can easily see the HUGE gap between the people that know their class and the people that don't.

    Gear is part of it, absolutely, but player skill/spec/rotation are all just as important.

    Also for people that say "well its ok as long as the boss dies!"... I hate that logic. People should be able to see their contributions and know when they should improve. They should -want- to improve. Just being blissfully ignorant of their own shortcomings makes them a leech on the rest of their team.

  14. Frankly, the best argument for DPS meters isn't figuring out who the "good DPS" are, it's giving the DPS the tools they need to improve. How on earth are you supposed to figure out which rotations work best if you don't know the results you're getting from each one?

    I'd liken it to practicing martial arts without an instructor: you can spend hours practicing a certain move, but without an instructor it's hard to know if A. the move you're practicing actually has any practical use and B. you're executing the move properly.

    Without a DPS meter, all you have is a hunch that using ability 1 or 2 before 3 will yield more damage, but you have no way of knowing if you should hit 123, 213, 1323, 23123, etc. Often those little distinctions can make a huge different in final results.

  15. "But if you don't want damage meters, if you think they are detrimental, then you should not have DPS checks like enrage timers."

    I've spoken out in the past against the idea of adding damage meters to SWTOR, but I agree with this statement. If you're going to make success in a fight predicate on tight DPS output, you have to provide the tools to monitor and improve that output. I'm actually really surprised to hear that the enrage timers are so fierce. It seems like the wrong design move.

    For what it's worth, I also disagree with Tobold's "all DPS are slackers" stance. I think it's just easier to hide as a bad DPSer because there is a pack of them. Bad tanks and healers will get picked out (and kicked out) faster. It's the same principle as finding more players on the low-end of the skill scale in a 25 man than in a 10 man.

  16. But if you don't want damage meters, if you think they are detrimental, then you should not have DPS checks like enrage timers. Having strict enrage timers without meters strikes me as unfair to the DPS players.

    I... have to disagree, at least with the overall sentiment. I'm not going to argue for or against a DPS meter (though statements have been made that Bioware is in fact adding support for such a thing in one fashion or another). What I am going to argue is that enrage timers are for more then just DPS checks.

    While you argue that it's unfair to "punish" players when they don't know their own performance, is it fair to remove the semblance of difficulty to "compensate"? The moment a healer is able to keep the tank up, the fight loses any sense of urgency or challenge, if there wasn't an enrage timer.

  17. Still, I think it proves that it's not a do or die situation where you either need metres or dps has to be completely irrelevant.

    Why bother with the roundabout half-measures? It has NEVER made sense to me that a game could emphasize big, splashy numbers popping up when you press buttons, and then pretend it gets to eat its cake too by not bothering to add said numbers up. Ignoring the systemic nature of the design does not make it go away.

    I was playing Dungeon Defenders the other day, and when you attack the training dummy in the waiting area, your DPS automatically pops up after a few seconds. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. How else I supposed to judge upgrades otherwise? What does +10 strength even mean? They could be handing out placebo gear and no one would ever notice.

  18. @Shintar, the feedback DPS get is very bad compared to healers. Even the situation you described doesn't provide good feedback - it only tells something went wrong but not what did. A healer can see (without meters) what went wrong because:
    - heals have a noticeable impact on the health bars (even the weakest heal is about 7-8% I think, DPS is orders of magnitude lower)
    - ...and on healers' endurance (the mana bars can't be as easily restored as the equivalent ones can for DPS)

    As a healer, it is easier to find out what went wrong with the meters but (assuming the unit health bars show incoming heals) it can be done without. As a DPS, it's not possible.

  19. DPS have tools at their disposal to optimize, and the good ones already know about this because they have put time in to min-maxing and in their search stumbled upon this. I don't know what it is, why DPS wouldn't want to do it, because DPS is a highly competitive role (the only competitive one I'd say).

    There is WoL which for example can tell you your DoT uptime, compare your DPS with others. There is Recount/Skada which allows you in-game to see who did how much damage on the Tendon or Bolt. For a beginner you can even use something like Ovale which tells you which button to press next, and Skada has support to give feedback on how well you did.

    To the person who said DPSing in SWTOR is more strong from a healer POV. Doing damage as healer in WoW is certainly possible, and something hardcore raiding guilds do. As atonement priest you do some ace DPS, there is a spec for shaman to also DPS with lightning bolt, and last but not least you can do some nice DPS in tree with wrath (which our resto druid does on Ultraxion). I also remember helping out with DPS on for example Sindragosa HC as resto druid because in P1 there isn't much to heal while DPS was tight.

    I believe it is an attitude problem. What I can advice to raid leaders: get more DPS in your raid team and rotate them. When deciding who to bench keep in mind aspects like raid buffs (esp in 10m), utility, maturity (included in this is showing up on time, connection/computer stability), and last but not least actual raw performance. The DPS in your raid group will go up, and the slackers will /gquit or whine (and then /gkick). Of course it is not fun to bench your best WoW friend "Bob" because "Alice" is more solid, but it is a necessity.

  20. I ran a highly successful raiding guild in EQ2 was main tank for 6 yrs we would of never got to that point without programs such as ACT ( advanced combat tracker) that said me and some friends are starting the raid / ops here and this game NEEDS a meter for healing and dps. Why? Theres sooo many classes available and sooo many people who have no idea what they are doing. I put a run together for a dungeon /flashpoint with myself as tank , a commando as heals , a gunslinger for dps and a jedi sentinal sounds like a decent group right ? Well we get to the first boss and start wiping , why ? The commando thinks hes dps cuz he has a big gun lol. How are we gonna gauge people worthy of a raid spot withput a meter of sorts? People dont wanna be singled out but how do you create a successful group withput knowing if your team is actually preforming to par? Stab it till it dies or goes enrage? There will always be players better than others and it just makes the raid leaders job that much harder if he cant tell whos not pulling their weight so he can take them aside and work with them to see if they can improve or replace them if they do nothing but bring your team to fail. The meter is not evil it helps top end players improve their game and whoop ass. I give 110% when I raid if my team doesnt then i take those players aside and find out how to fix the problem without the tools to measure your left to guess and make bad mistakes in keeping or removing certain players.