Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

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Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Klaudandus » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:13 pm

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/443975 ... _2012#blog

The Deluge
A monsoon is coming. We will soon inundate you with Mists of Pandaria information, starting with the upcoming media event and everything that follows. It’s going to be a very exciting time for World of Warcraft, and we are all super impatient for it to happen.

But… we’re not quite there yet. I want to make that clear upfront, because this blog isn’t directly Mists of Pandaria related. You won’t find any announcements here, just a philosophical discussion that you may or may not find interesting. If you’re looking for thrilling announcements, you know what I’m going to say: Soon™.

Multiple DPS Roles
I said this blog isn’t directly relevant though, because I want to discuss a topic that we did struggle with a lot during Mists development, and indeed through most of World of Warcraft. We have classes with multiple DPS specs, and for mage, warlock, hunter, rogue, warrior and death knight, there isn’t even a melee vs. ranged distinction between those DPS specs. The question comes up all the time: “what is the role of these roles?” I don’t think there is a right answer here, and we’ve even changed the design a few times over the last several years. Again, I’m not couching this in terms of an imminent announcement or anything. This is fundamentally one of those designs that could go in a lot of different directions. It’s something we discuss a lot, and we figured given the strong opinions of our forum-posting community, many of you probably do as well.

A paladin can choose from among specs that let her be a tank, melee DPS or healer, and can shift around which role she fills in a raid or BG team from week to week. Through the Dual Spec feature, she can even do so within a single evening. If her group doesn’t need another healer, or if she needs a break from tanking, she can become a DPS spec fairly easily without having to swap to a different character. A warlock doesn’t have that luxury. Yet, the warlock still has three specs. Is the idea, then, that you are supposed to swap from Destruction to Demonology and back depending on the situation? Is the idea that you play Affliction if you like dots and Destruction if you like nukes? Or do you just switch to whatever theoretically does 1% more DPS for the next fight?

Players are sometimes cavalier about throwing around the claim that there’s a “lack of design direction” when they want their character buffed. Of course, classes always have a design direction; players just sometimes disagree with it. My point is that just because we debate whether the current design is the best possible one doesn’t mean there isn’t a design at all. That distinction is important. And of course, we do have a directive for which DPS spec you should play: whichever one you enjoy the most. But that doesn’t mean that is the best model or that it can’t ever change. There are other models we could try.

Model One – Everyone is equal all the time

If your DPS and utility are the same across specs, then you just play whichever one you prefer. Maybe you like the kit of the Frost mage, or maybe you like the rotation of the Fury warrior, so you play them. As I said above, this has been the model we have used for a while now, with mixed success. The challenge is that “all the time” caveat. We can get all of the DPS specs pretty close together on target dummies, and indeed they actually are very close on target dummies today. Our encounters aren’t target dummies though. Having some adds increases the damage of dot-specs. Having lots of adds increases the damage of strong AE specs. Having to move on a fight, and how often and far you have to move, can cause DPS to go up or down differently. Even if DPS is only off by a few percentage points, many players will respec to the one with the highest DPS (even if it’s theoretical, even if for them they will do lower personal DPS than if they had stuck with a more familiar spec). A mage who just loves Fire might be frustrated if he ever has to go Arcane, while another player might be happy that he gets to try different specs for different fights.

The class stacking we’ve seen on the Spine of Deathwing encounter relates to the need for massive burst damage in a specific window, such that the difference between a one minute DPS cooldown and a two minute DPS cooldown matters. Even if we could make sure every spec had the same AE vs. single target damage, do we now need to also ensure every spec can do the same DPS in burst windows of various lengths? Is that even mathematically possible? Or do we just test every spec for every raid encounter of the current tier and tweak class mechanics around for whatever is the current status quo? That implies a high rate of change, and I wonder if we’d lose a little bit of the fun of experimentation and theorycrafting if it was basically accepted that you could take any spec to any fight and do about the same damage. It’s more balanced, yes, but does it lack depth or flavor? Is it fun?

Model Two – Everyone has specialties and you match the spec to the situation
Under this model, we would establish spec specialties. For example, Arcane could be good for single-target fights while Fire is great at AE fights. Some of that design already exists in the game, but we try not to overdo it. If you really like playing one mage spec, or really detest constant spec swapping, then this model isn’t going to be to your liking. Furthermore, we don’t want to overstrain our boss design by having to meet a certain quota of AE vs. single target fights and movement vs. stationary fights and burn phase vs. longevity fights or whatever. It is also really hard to engineer these situations in Arenas or Battlegrounds (for example, both mobility and burst are extremely desirable in PvP), so in those scenarios there still may just be one acceptable spec.

Model Three – You swap specs to gain specific utility
If we used this model, then you might switch out to a different spec to gain a specific spell. Again, we have some of this today. A DK might want Unholy’s Anti-Magic Zone for a certain fight. Hunters might go Beastmaster to pick up a missing raid buff. Mages might go Fire for situations where Combustion shines. Druids might go Balance when they need the knockback from Typhoon. A little of this sort of thing goes a long way though. As in Model One, not every player wants to have to swap specs. If you just like Survival, you might resent having to go BM to just to buff someone. If knockbacks are too potent, then it really constrains your raid composition and makes even casual guilds feel like they need to keep a stable of alts or benched players for every fight. If, for example, there wasn’t a boss in the current raid tier for which warrior abilities really shine, then warriors start to feel like a third wheel, yet trying to make sure every boss in a tier has a moment for every spec to shine is a pretty daunting task.

The extreme case of this is the “utility” spec who does middling DPS, but brings a lot of synergy and utility that improves all of the other specs. This was the Burning Crusade model, where classes like shaman and Shadow priests were brought to raids just to make the pure classes (and warriors, who were always treated as pure classes back then for some reason) do better DPS. In Lich King, we changed the design to make different raid buffs and abilities more widespread and give groups much more flexibility in their raid (and to some extent dungeon) comps. We heard from Shadow priests that they wanted to do competitive damage, not just be there to make everyone else more awesome. But even today we get a lot of requests to improve the utility of someone’s spec so that they are more likely to get invited to a group.

Model Four – There is just a best spec for PvP and PvE
This was the model of vanilla World of Warcraft, and we understand some players wouldn’t mind it returning. In this model Arms and Frost and Subtlety (and other specs) were designed to be good for PvP, while others, Fury and Fire and Combat perhaps, were designed to be good for PvE. The PvP specs might have better mobility or survivability or burst damage, while the PvE specs have better sustained damage over the course of a 6-10 minute boss fight. A lot has changed since vanilla. We don’t make many raid or dungeon encounters these days where DPS specs can just stand in one place and burn down a boss. Mobility, survivability, and burst damage can all be really useful on particular encounters, sometimes trumping the higher DPS offered by a competing spec. (There’s that old adage that dead do zero DPS.) In addition, if there is a PvP spec and a PvE spec, then for pure classes that implies that your third spec lacks much of a role. (The good leveling spec? Is that exciting?) Furthermore, our Mists of Pandaria talent tree design explicitly takes away some of the tools from the traditional PvP specs and makes them available to other specs in the class. If this works out, then you can take your Frost mage raiding, or have an Arcane mage for PvP who uses some of what traditionally were Frost’s control and escape tools. That’s great if you PvP and love Arcane, or PvE and love Frost. It’s less cool if you were the kind of player who was totally comfortable with the simpler (and possibly easier to balance) design of having dedicated PvP vs. PvE specs.

Model Five – Don’t have multiple DPS roles
This is the most controversial model and the one that would require the most change, meaning we are almost certainly never going to do it. For sake of completeness though, you can argue that classes never should have been designed with multiple specs that fill the same role. In this model, either Arms or Fury goes away and gets replaced with something. (Archery? Healing?) Warlocks and other pure classes would need a massive redo to end up with say a melee and tanking warlock. Everyone becomes a hybrid. The hardest decisions becomes whether you want to be the ranged or melee DPS version of your class (like druids or shaman). This idea is elegant from a design perspective because it un-asks all of those questions about how much more damage pure classes should do than hybrids to justify their narrower utility. But, perhaps counter-intuitively, elegant designs often aren’t the strongest ones (I could write a whole blog on that topic alone). Model Five is the kind of rhetorical question you could go back in time and ask before WoW launched, but not the kind of thing we could change today without taking an enormous amount of effort, to say nothing of the irate players who would feel bamboozled that we were so dramatically changing their character out from under them. I try to never say never, but this model isn’t the kind of change you make in a mature game. It’s here only for completeness and because I suspect some of you will bring it up.

But Which is the Best Model?
Hell if I know! I fundamentally believe that none of these models is, without question, the obvious right one. All of them have advantages and disadvantages, and there are probably other models you could come up with that are variants on these five, or perhaps even something new. Like I said, we’re not announcing a philosophy change yet. If we get enough feedback for one model or another, we might eventually change our minds. Also for this blog we’re going to lock the comments and ask that you post your replies in this forum thread. Just remember that even we don’t believe that there is one correct answer, so please keep that in mind when you’re composing your feedback.


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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Fridmarr » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:46 pm

While the idea of multiple DPS roles sounds good on paper, I think it's too hard to accomplish in WoW. Blizzard already has enough points of balance to keep them plenty busy, I don't think adding more is a good idea.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby poptart » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:42 am

Since I don't play any of the "pure" DPS classes, I don't really have a dog in the fight.

That being said, I think that the best solution would be to somehow have all three DPS specs have about the same purpose but implement that purpose slightly differently.

For example, take the Mage class.

All three specs do DPS (duh) but, say, perhaps Fire mage is all about Procs and you need to be able to think and react quickly to using those procs in the best way possible in order to maximize your DPS. This builds off a different thought process that might appeal to certain players and is perhaps a bit better in movement type fights where some of the procs allow for "instant" cast spells.

Whereas Arcane might be almost no proces but different abilities build off each other so you need to cast in a pretty "regimented" way in order to max DPS. This appeals to those who like a "rotation" to their DPS; however, if the rotation is broken due to the need to move or stun/interrupt/etc then your DPS suffers. How do you pre-position your toon in order to minimize those disruptions is a large part of the their playstyle.

And Frost is perhaps a bit of the hybrid; you have a few procs here and there in order to allow you to do some great burst damage (if they come up) but you also have a lot of "steady state" abilities and perhaps you have a bit more of the "control" type abilities for a kiting function.

I don't know how hard it would be to "balance" them knowing that on some fights, the design lends itself to one spec over another. You are giving the players "choices" because they can decide to continue to play a spec because they want to knowing that their DPS will suffer because the encounter design does not support it or they can change specs to min/max their DPS.

Just some thoughts.

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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Shoju » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:36 am

I like what they did with the 2 Death Knight DPS Specs.

Frost - Has DW, and 2h'd.
Unholy - Has 2h'd + Ghoul

I hate the pet. I play frost. The only thing that sucks, is right now, 2h'd frost is bad dps, so if you run into a situation where your best weapon is a 2h'er, you are stuck playing with the ghoul.

What would be awesome IMO, is if they make Unholy similar to Fury. You get down so far in the tree, and that gives you the option of:

1.) Master Summoner - You turn into Unholy + Ghoul
2.) Blight Master - Your DPS increase that you would have got from the ghoul, is somehow baked into the rest of your DoT's and DC, and what not, allowing you to play 2h'd DPS with the ghoul.

That leaves Frost as the DW tree. Blood as the Tank Tree, and Unholy as the 2h'd tree. Different styles of play.

For Pure Classes it is harder, because you have three versions of the same thing. How do you make Rogues different with three trees? Or warlocks? Or Mages?

I don't know if the answer is to hybridize everyone, even though, I think that it would be the "right" choice in my mind. The problem becomes, Would any of the pures EVER be a healer?

Mage? Eh, maybe?
Rogue? Here! Drink this poison! It will do WONDERS for you.
Warlock? I HEAL YOU WITH THE POWER OF CORRUPTION!
Hunter? Hey, My pet is likkin' ur woundz....

So then, you would be hybridizing them all to tank, which... seems counter-intuitive to me.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Skye1013 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:00 am

Mage has been made into a healer in a number of other games (FF, Rift, etc.)

Rogue could specialize in damage prevention (it kinda already does with stuns/disarm, but could make something more specific for that.)

Warlock, that could be iffy, but I don't see any reason why you couldn't have fel/shadow heals (some of the mobs do, after all...)

Hunter, shoots healing darts/arrows/whatever (similar to the ranged healer in SWTOR.)

Given enough thought, it could fairly easily be done.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Archeth » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:29 am

Pet-based classes seem better suited for tank specs TBH, which would require some sort of improved pet control system through player abilities. It's not going to happen though, neither are healing mages etc.

I don't think warriors and DKs with two pretty different melee specs are a real issue, pure DPS classes probably more so, with their complete lack in role flexibility and three trees that all have to be balanced and offer a distinct playstyle these days.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Fivelives » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:31 am

Then they'd have the headache of balancing encounters around say, 7? possible different tanks.

I think it would be interesting to see all of the "pure dps" classes to get a melee dps spec, ranged dps spec, and a pvp spec. That seems to be the only distinction now, as far as raiding is concerned. Then you'd TRULY be able to "bring the player, not the class".

As far as tanks and healers are concerned, give them each a PvE DPS spec (ranged for heals, melee for tanks) and a dedicated PvP spec. I think that solution would probably also go a long way toward fixing the problems raised when something needs a nerf in PvP, but ends up gutting a spec in PvE because of the PvP nerfs.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Archeth » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:49 am

You mean you'd replace it with "bring the spec, not the class". They're also trying to get rid of the "PvP spec" model with the new talent system, so that solution is about as future-proof as the old "one raid spec per class" thing.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby halabar » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:20 am

The real problem is when they take a spec and make it a "leveling spec", and don't fix it for end-game raiding. It's also odd that BM is the preferred PVP spec even though it doesn't have the PVP talents that MM or SV has, so something is rotten there.

The other thing Blizz has been unwilling to do is to put more dps in the pets, as they are AI controlled.

What I would really like to see for hunters is:

Pets removed from MM, and they are given more burst damage.
BM becomes a tanking class and higher pet damage class.
SV stays where it is as the utility class.

But all three still need to be raid viable.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Shyrtandros » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:49 am

Melee Warlock.... Do want..
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby KysenMurrin » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:52 am

I think they had the option early on to turn SV into a melee spec, but at this point it's never going to happen. Pets are almost an afterthought for MM and SV, though. Just a buffbot and DoT.

I could see a Warlock healer pretty easily. Look at the way they're putting a bunch of self healing stuff into the Warlock talents for MoP. Blood themed, mostly, and that concept could be expanded. Siphon and drain spells can be worked in, demon sacrifice, a new or redesigned demon that does healing themed things. It would probably be Demonology if it had to be an existing spec.

Rogue tanks are possible but potentially difficult to balance. Mage tanking can be done with wards and debuffs. I could even see them working something out around a Hunter tank spec where the pet tanks and the Hunter supports it (give the Hunter tank spec an always-on pet misdirect as their threat stance, then have shots and traps that debuff and affect the boss' damage output on the pet).
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Fivelives » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:53 am

It wouldn't be so much "bring the spec, not the class". Assume that Player A is an amazing death knight, but some fights aren't melee-friendly. Player A doesn't particularly want to roll a ranged DPS class, level it, and go through the gear lottery to get it raid ready. Instead, if death knights had a ranged spec, they'd be competitive on fights that are melee-unfriendly, without going through the hassle of rolling an entirely new toon and gearing it to the point it's viable for the content that you're raiding. It's the same philosophy as feral druids respeccing balance for Ultraxion, since they can't get behind the boss to shred - only it's for ALL of the "pure" DPS classes.

"Bring the player, not the class" doesn't work as long as there are fights that favor melee over ranged DPS.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Skye1013 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:54 am

Shyrtandros wrote:Melee Warlock.... Do want..

Don't they (kind of) already have this with Metamorphosis? Shouldn't be too difficult to expand that into a full spec.
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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Shyrtandros » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:29 am

KysenMurrin wrote:I could see a Warlock healer pretty easily. Look at the way they're putting a bunch of self healing stuff into the Warlock talents for MoP. Blood themed, mostly, and that concept could be expanded. Siphon and drain spells can be worked in, demon sacrifice, a new or redesigned demon that does healing themed things. It would probably be Demonology if it had to be an existing spec.



Okay I admit a healer demon & blood healing sounds more fun than the melee after thinking about it..

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Re: Dev Watercooler - The Role of Role

Postby Mannstein » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:41 am

halabar wrote:The real problem is when they take a spec and make it a "leveling spec", and don't fix it for end-game raiding. It's also odd that BM is the preferred PVP spec even though it doesn't have the PVP talents that MM or SV has, so something is rotten there.

The other thing Blizz has been unwilling to do is to put more dps in the pets, as they are AI controlled.

What I would really like to see for hunters is:

Pets removed from MM, and they are given more burst damage.
BM becomes a tanking class and higher pet damage class.
SV stays where it is as the utility class.

But all three still need to be raid viable.


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