Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 10, 2012
Are stat caps a good idea?

I wasn't only playing Guild Wars 2 this weekend, but also a bit of World of Warcraft. The project to still level up my retribution paladin to 85 before the expansion found a premature end, as after the patch he found himself just 1 xp away from level 85. It appears Blizzard already lowered the xp needed for the last two levels. So I killed 1 mob, hit level 85, and bought some cheap iLevel 377 PvP gear which will be good enough for the expansion. Doing so I noticed that my mana was fixed at 20,000, and didn't budge when I changed between items with different INT. So I checked my holy priest, and other than that his mana was stuck at 100,000, the effect was the same: Changing gear or using other means to increase INT didn't change mana. Mana is capped now, at a rather low value.

Now theoretically I could see the interest of such a cap: If one stat is much better than all others, like INT for  most casters, capping it allows people to make more meaningful choices. Like putting more spirit instead of maxing INT. In practice right now the concept is somewhat flawed: INT still is a very good stat, as it not only affects mana, but also spellpower. And it isn't as if you had the choice between gear with INT or spirit. All caster gear has INT as a baseline, and you get the choice between spirit, mastery, critical, haste, and the like. Only the gems and enchants can now reasonably be switched to spirit. You can't even reforge INT into something else.

It appears to me that the problem is one of there being too much spread between basic and best-in-slot gear at the level cap. Casters who got the best available gear had so much INT, their mana pool was simply getting too huge. Why bother with mana conservation and the like if you have more than enough? The cap forces people to not spam their most mana intensive spells all the time any more.

That leads to the question whether we should have more caps on stats like that. Should there be a limit on how much stronger a character with the best-in-slot equipment should be over a freshly levelcapped character? And are stat caps the best way to achieve such a limit? You tell me!

This isn't actually a stat cap. What they've done is normalize all caster mana, so gear just doesn't effect it at all.

This way, if you want your pool to last longer, you gear for Spirit. If you want throughput, you go for Int. The idea is that if Int increases both your capacity and your throughput, it just becomes too good relative to other stats, such that things like matching gem bonuses is almost never worth it.

Anyway, the current stat weights are all askew until everyone hits 90 anyhow.
The only time I played as healer was in Wrath of the lich King because it was super easy...Never had to worry about my mana, just look at health bars and throw up powerful heals. But I guess it was very boring for regular healers that would like to have more complex and challenge.

In cataclysm it ended up that there were not healers around to do any dungeon and if there was some brave lads they were leaving at half of the dungeon with "sorry guys, I can't manage it, hope you find someone better"

When I tried to heal in Cataclysm at the start I was very bad and I also had nightmares of green bars getting read and then dead :) and I gave up healing for good.

Making healing/tanking very complex is very good for people dedicated at it as they can shine between the masses but that also means less and less people around doing that roles. And MoP with a fixed mana pool doesn't seem it will be easy again like WotlK for casters and so I don't see myself into it.

From the other hand, playing tank all those years, since vanilla, I like tanking to be difficult and challenging although with the changes they made in threat it became tooo easy..

So basically they made tanking very easy, which I wanted it to be hard and healing hard which I wanted it to be easy..I guess I am very unlucky :)

As for the caps again, I am sure people will find the next best stat to stack so it may not be INT, It will be Mastery, e.t.c. Capping a stat, doesn't give you options, just replace the previous "god" stat with the next one
Stat caps have always existed in some form for many classes. +Hit% chance, expertise, defense skill, etc. And these are just the hard caps mentioned. When you get into the theorycrafting, there are plenty of soft caps where one stat becomes better than another or tradeoffs coming to the fore.

Should there be a limit on how much stronger a character with the best-in-slot equipment should be over a freshly levelcapped character?

This is actually a whole different topic really. The existence of one stat cap doesn't prevent a higher ilvl character from getting stronger. It'd need stat caps on everything to actually limit the power.

As for the answer itself, that's something that relates to the whole game paradigm. In a game like WoW, where the entire pleasure system relies on the loot carrot, obviously not. Placing hard limits on character/item progression would be a full on paradigm shift and would be suicide.
Blizzard's post on why Int no longer boosts mana pools:
It probably makes sense that mana pool is now fixed, if they want to simplify the stat system and make it more intuitive (grab stat x for bigger heals, stat y for more mana regen).

I can't speak for other classes since I haven't played them much in Cataclysm, but Druids have several sources of mana regen that scale with mana pool size. Therefore, mana regen scales with Int (and by a sizable amount) and Spirit does become less useful. Furthermore, even mana regen from Spirit also depends (or depended) on the square root of Int, adding even more value to Int. Finally, encounters don't only demand constant healing (which is usually quite efficient and thus not a big problem) but burst and on-demand healing, which again favours peak throughput stats over regen stats. All these factors give Spirit a lower level of importante that the level that Blizzard desires, so it makes sense that they give now more importante to Spirit. Personally, I think it would be better to have regen not linked to mana pool size (just for the cosmetic effect of estimating a caster strength by his mana pool size), but this also works for the purpose.

While there is usually no trade-off between Spirit and Int, there is to some extent (trinkets, enchants/gems/flask/food choice), and there are trade-offs between Spirit and other stats in regular gear.

I also agree that the stat gap between the start and the end of an expansion (or even between patches) is just too big. Your DPS rises by a factor of about 3x or 4x between the time you start raiding in Cataclysm and the time you defeat all the Dragon Soul bosses. It's not something that needs to be capped; instead, upgrading gear should provide a smaller amount of stats than it provides now or stats should have diminishing returns (e.g. as you gain more crit rating, the amount of crit % a point of crit rating gives you decreases); since character strength rises polinomically with stats, this change would decrease that rate to a more "linear" function (since it's easier to prevent that function going out of control)
"importante that"

Read that as "importance than"...
As Prunetracy said, mana's not capped but fixed at a value. (I think it's 20k for non-casters and 100k for casters at level 85.) Consider how radically did the play style change going from T11 to T13, I don't think it's a bad thing.

What I don't agree with is your either-or question. This can be implemented as one of the things that prevent power inflation and there can be multiple things done to take care about it. My personal opinion is the ilvl difference between tiers could be lower as well.
"Your DPS rises by a factor of about 3x or 4x between the time you start raiding in Cataclysm and the time you defeat all the Dragon Soul bosses."

But if they changed that, raiding success would depend much more on player skill. Which they don't really want.
While this was just removing mana as a gear stat, but in general I prefer diminishing returns over caps.

@ Gerry Quinn - that is just about player ego and gear reset. The DPS increase does not affect current content - the ratio of boss health increase versus DPS does. So increasing DPS 50% and boss health 25% makes than easier and much easier than doubling DPS and tripling boss health. But inflation does make it easier to do previous content to gear up yourself or a new raid member.
They can raise or lower DPS by a factor of 10 (or keep dps the same) without it making a difference Gerry. The relevant point is how much they increase boss power compared to player strength increase. Raisind player DPS by a factor of 10 can make equally difficult or more or less than DS.
"...raiding success would depend much more on player skill. Which they don't really want."

Do you have a post or comment from a Blizzard representative to support this? Why would Blizzard want skill to be less important in achieving success?
@Christofer It depends how you define skill but anyway, it will be naive to think Blizzard will come out in a press release saying "gear is primary, skill is secondary". Yet, you don't have to play WoW for long till you realize the main focus us gear.

At the very top level of guild finishing content for the first time, there's certainly an element of skill but when you consider they have millions of people playing, obviously, you cannot demand a similar level of skill.
I have never been sure what to make of regen and mana pools. They tend to work differently depending on whether you are in good raid guilds or pugging.

The challenge from good mana management makes healing more interesting but I personally find it doesn't take much skill or practice to master it and know which spell is the most appropriate & efficient based on what your raid frames are displaying. I actually felt the Wrath model where healing was more of a meter/output race had a higher skill cap.

So after a relatively short healing career you soon reach the point where you find your mana usage can no longer be modified by your skills and it is almost entirely a function of what your team mates get up to. I refer of course to how much avoidable damage they take and how long they take to kill a boss. The amount of mana I use is out of my hands.

In a good raid guild you know your team mates in those other roles are as skilled as you. They are mostly doing their job properly so unless your team is undergeared you won't have a problem. For me healing at that level is purely a stat issue - gear gating.

At the opposite end of the spectrum (pugs/casual guilds) your team mates still determine your mana consumption but the difference is that they waste it horribly. In this type of group content I find that the limited mana model (as opposed to Wraths infinite mana system) merely results in undue pressure being placed on the healer. You find yourself in groups that are literally impossible to heal and you face being blamed for the short comings of others.

In that scenario it is very stressful when you are held accountable for a resource when you, assuming you reached the low skill cap, have the least control over its consumption out of all the players in the group!

We know for a fact that on the same piece of content and with two groups equipped with the same gear, the healer in the better, more skilful group has to output less overall healing than the healer in the worse group - who take more avoidable damage and for longer.

We also saw that mana was far tighter in the entry level content for fresh 85's than it was in the top end content.

It is kind of perverse that a new healer with less skill and less gear has to produce higher outputs than a pro guild healer. The Cata model of gear progression giving the pro healers infinite mana and the new guys a desperate shortage (relative to their respective content) was a disaster. It should be the opposite IMO where the new guys spec for output and the hardcore pro's have to take more regen stats.

On a positive note it appears as though Blizzard have listened as they claim that MOP will be a reverse of Cataclysm in that mana will me more plentiful at the start in the entry level content and become more of an issue as you move up. Remains to be seen but I'd love to see puggers gemming for output and the pro's having to balance that up with regen stats. I believe both types of player would find that more fun.
The mana pool is not what i thought you would be talking about when I read stat caps.

Strength gives Attack power so you hit harder,
Agility gives Attack power so you hit harder and crit so you crit more,
Int gave Spell power so you hit harder, crit so you crit more and let you dps/heal for longer. This made a very good stat.

Even as a healer I have no problem with that mana cap, it makes sense and hey at least it gives me a reason to use blue and purple gems.

I gemmed my ret spec for leveling last week, 19 red gems, 1 orange,1 blue. /sigh.

I think the best way is to confront players with different activities which which cannot be predicted exactly but allow educated guesses.

Example: If you go with a group to dungeon A you will encounter enemy X more often than enemy Y, but enemy Y is still a possibility. Therefore, you should equip yourself in a way that encounter X becomes easier without encounter Y being impossible.

Now, if you got to dungeon B, however, there will be more undead, which means that you should equip more holy weapons and less silver.


Of course, nowadays players are not supposed to choose between different dungeons. All activities are the same (diffuculty/length/..) so that the players queue randomly and thus lower queue times.

All the difference that there is, is in the style. This is deliberate design ...
I said: "...raiding success would depend much more on player skill. Which they don't really want."

Christopher said: "Do you have a post or comment from a Blizzard representative to support this? Why would Blizzard want skill to be less important in achieving success?"

Others made related points.

Say skill makes 50% difference to performance. If the gap between the first boss and the last is 100%, you need 50% extra from gear if you are skilled, 100% if you are not. But if the gap is 300%, you need 250% from gear if you are skilled, 300% if you aren't. So raiding success depends much more on skill in the first example. (I know this is oversimplified and if there are multiplier effects between gear and skill it will be reduced, but the point stands.)

Riftstalker answered Christopher well. Blizzard want everyone to succeed, so they must set the bar low. That means more rewards for grinding out gear. which everyone can do (and no more setting a skill bar to getting the drops you need). In the meantime they hope to satisfy players who want a skill challenge by hard modes and races to first kill.

The problem with Int was that it scaled too well. This created problems also for talents like telluric currents, atonement, rapture which became ridiculously overpowered. More int means more SP which means more healing which doing damage (atonement) or more mana back (telluric currents) and a higher mana pool meant more mana % back (rapture).

To compare the mana pools and related difficulties see this post by Greg Street

Healers will, like before, want spirit for throughput and int/crit/mastery for burst (haste only for certain caps). None of these talents will affect the earlier mentioned 3 talents (nor innervate/divine plea) because of the cap.

Stats are already mathematically capped. After a certain point, you got too much spirit which means you end fights with a lot of mana left (which you'd otherwise have forged into crit/mastery). Haste you need to go for certain haste breakpoints/caps. Mastery cannot be capped, and crit suffers from DR depending on class/spec.

So for the caster, the only stat which wasn't capped was int.

However now intellect is of no concern anymore to casters, and healers who level up will never go OOM. I've been multiboxing a bit past week, and the mana regen during leveling is a complete joke.

As for the skill discussion I'd like to add one important point to it: time/effort. Some guilds raid 2 times a week a few hours and are in top 500. Are those guilds better or worse than a top 100 guild who raids 6 times a week for complete evening? Difficult to say.
Oops one minor edit to my post: "However now intellect is of no concern" should've been "However now mana is of no concern".
Mana pool: Blizzard simply want this resource to work more like the resources of other classes, such as rage for warriors, or energy for rogues, or focus for hunters.
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