Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
The groupability stat

I have this brilliant idea for Blizzard for a series of role-specific stats to introduce in Cataclysm, which I'll call groupability stats. Each groupability stat is unique to one role, be it tanking, healing, or dps. But all the groupability stats work on the same principles:So what do you think, would this groupability stat be fun to play in World of Warcraft?

Right now most of you are outraged how I could possibly propose such a stupid idea, which would just ruin your fun. The only people laughing in my audience are those of you who play tanks, as you instantly recognized the parody: Tanks in World of Warcraft already have a groupability stat, called defense. It has all the features listed above, you *need* to be defense capped in groups (535 for heroics, 540 for raids) if you don't want to get one-shotted, but being above that value adds only a tiny 0.04% to dodge and parry chance, and is basically a waste. So every tank has to be defense capped, but not more, with all the consequences listed above of carrying two sets of gear and switching around gems and enchantments constantly.

If Blizzard were to introduce a groupability stat that works in the same way for healers and dps classes, there would be a huge outcry. Everybody would shout how stupid such a stat is, how unfun to play, how much harder it makes gearing up your character, and so on. And all these arguments are totally justified. Thus I'm very happy that Blizzard is removing the defense stat in Cataclysm. Tanks will get anti-crit talents and skills, and won't have to juggle around "the cap" any more.

Good riddance, defense stat, it wasn't nice knowing you!
Defense is the last remaining attunement.
For 1/2 a second I thought your working proposing a replacement for 'GearScore' which as a casual, non raiding, happy go lucky warlock gnome means very little to me.
You had me going there for a second. Very good way to make a point. Point has definitely been made.
One of the reasons I switched my druid from a tank to a dps was because of gear.

Being a tank (in a high end group) takes a huge amount of theory crafting time spent outside the game. After you sort through all the different numbers you still need to look through gear databases until you find gear that will push your stats to a high enough level. Then you need to grind some dungeons or waste money on the AH to obtain that gear so that finally you can play the game that you wanted to play from the beginning.

I loved tanking but hated the extra work in gearing up as a tank. Maybe I'll try being a bear again when Cataclysm hits.
Actually DPS already has a groupability stat: hit rating.

You're right however, defence and hit rating are stupid stats for they are minimum requirements and add no depth to the game.

Similar to this is armour penetration.

These stats should be reworked in cata.
I dunno... I've always liked stat caps that I have to balance around, though the numbers game is part of what entertains me about MMOs. I enjoy nerding out over stats like that.
For me anyways, the fun part is balancing stats. As a healer, do I want more throughput, utility or regen?

Questions such as these add depth to the game as no two healers will answer the same question in the exact same manner.

Contrast with some dps classes:
- Gear until the hit cap. If over, reduce it.
- Gem and enchant spellpower (Exceptions are to activate a meta-gem or the socket bonus makes it worth it).

Balancing the hit cap has no depth (you must reach the hit cap) but is needless complexity.

In a similar fashion is the defence cap.
And in Cataclysm, defense will no longer matter to this extreme, but DPS will want to be hit capped (especially given >L88 bosses), healers will need 'enough' spirit to not run out of mana, and tanks will want 'enough' avoidance.

Soloing, you're fighting mobs that your dps talents will cover the hit deficit on, healers can drink, and tanks can eat.

An accurate prediction from Tobold!
One of the reasons I switched my druid from a tank to a dps was because of gear.

Well .. Druids actually have that -6% crit talent to skill. :)

Otherwise, yes. Theorycrafting for tanks in certainly more interesting than for dps.
Apparently Blogger has a technical problem and some comments are disappearing. You'll notice that the number of comments it says this thread has on the front page is not equal to the number of comments actually shown. I did see the comments in my mailbox, but even to me they are invisible on the blog. I hope Blogger fixes that, there is nothing I can do from my end.
Apart from the fact that I very much agree with Klep that "Defense is the last remaining attunement", it will be nice to see that go.


The new mastery stat, what will that entail? Will it be just as vital to get for each role? That will be interesting to follow. (but good riddance to the amount of crap gear I had to have with me at all times to switch around)
Makes me wonder if Bliz is goint to make it even more atractive to duel spec dps/tank/heal. Only need to change spec in a raid/hc - not need to change gear ? Pala and druid tanking/dps, druid moonkin/healing, warrior dps/tanking etc. Might bring some more tanks into play ?
There's no such thing as a defense cap. It's a defense minimum.

Defense over 540 still gives dodge, parry & block.
But not much - my defence is currently standing at 565 so I am using the buffer and starting replacing +def gems for +sta ones.

once you hit the def cap you need to get to at least 40k unbuffed before you can get into a raid.

It's not just the def cap that people look for - that's just the start :(
Apart from when you just reach 80, there is currently no way that any tank class will be under the defense cap if they use tank gear so it's not like you have to work for it nor is it a meaningful stat anymore, hence why they are removing it.

Also, because of the very small gear diversity, there is almost 0 theory crafting anymore for tanks (unless you just reached 80 as well or maybe druide, not sure about them) and even the gem game is so restricted that you don't really have a choice there either.
Who gives a frak if you have 0.02% more to dodge but lose 120hp?

The ONLY real issues are with "To Hit" and "Expertise" because they are not standardized among gear pieces so when you upgrade from one glove to another, you might lose "To Hit", which might put your threat generation into jeopardy. But even that doesn't really matter, I've seen high end tanks that were no were close to be at the To Hit reqs and it didn't really matter.

The entire system Blizzard just published as a revision of stats/gear sounds nice in a way (prolly because it's new) but also sounds like a huge dumb down and not an actual improvement.

There is already absolutely no room for diversity, every single tank out there is pretty much the carbon copy of the other with the only difference being in play style. It appears that it's only gonna get worse with Cataclysm.

My biggest grip is with talents. Talents should not be required to actually play a role (DPS/TANK/HEAL) but instead should enhance specifics about your character overall.
A tank should be able to tank just because he got gear on (and correct stance, buff, etc). Talents then come ONTO that to define him as a tank but ALSO as a DPS or Healer.
It was an annoying stat and unfair to some classes.

As a deathknight it was a lot more difficult to get defense capped than it was for other classes. Especially before they added the + x defense weapon spell.

But yeah, +hit is very similar. You need exactly 8%. More is a waste. Less and you're not doing your optimum damage. Getting gear means getting your best gear so that you still have that magical 8%. Plus it's only useful in raids. Of course the GUI doesn't show you 8% so you need an addon like ratingbuster...

None the less you can raid with 7.9% hit. Having 539 defense is playing Russian roulette.
What Blizzard is doing with hit is remarkable.

It is only useful in groups and they make it much more meaningful and important. It also has a hard cap.

The reasoning behind this:
If high end raiders have to spend their item budget on hit and if high end pvp players have to spend their item budget on +resilence the actual damage inflation on 'normal' mobs is about zero.

You could go as far as to have every firemage cast fireballs for 5000 damage. The PvP Fire Mage (lol) needs resilence, the raid-fire-mage (a little lol) needs +hit.

However, even in T100 both players have fireballs that hit normal mobs for 5000 damage.

Blizzard won't make it as extreme, but that is the philosophy.

On the other hand, they have the crit philosophy:
You will crit much less against sufficiently powerful raid bosses. This seems to allow for 150% crit chances.

But that wouldn't make a lot of sense to anybody outside of raiding, and even worse, it makes the game outside of raiding extremely strange. You might have a 100% crit chance as a top raider. This makes all classes that have crit-proccs very strange to play.

My guess is that the crit penalthy will eventually be weakended or removed.

My wish, however, was to remove the hit penalthy. If I get better equip I want to be more powerful. I dislike a 'pve stat' = hit or a 'pvp-stat' = resilence.

It doesn't feel right for me.
Being a prot warrior, i agree with the original commenter and feel like defense was the last remaining attunement for entry level end game tanking.

I've always felt like it was neccesary albeit reasonable goal to always meet the defense cap and it was a tanks responsibility to meet that goal to protect his companions.

On the other hand, it is a major time sink and money sink to gear two seperate sets, in my case threat/survivability for different fights. That i will not miss.

My major complaint about groupability is how everyone has become an anonymous gearscore. "Hi i'm 3274 and i will be tanking for you today." It pains me how ppl dont talk in groups anymore and its just gogogo, aoe,aoe.

The immersion is gone and i dont see myself playing much til Cataclysm.
When WotLK first hit 'defence capped' was difficult. I passed up many epics because my blue gear offered more def. The highest def I got was like 542. I was fully enchanted and gemmed for defence. No stamina gems. I stopped playing for a while, but 3.3 gear makes being defence capped very easy. Badge & heroic gear will easily get defence up to the 550 mark. My main pally who has full ilvl 264 gear is at 560 defence, and I have the BOE boots/legs....they have no defence. I have zero defence gems/enhcnats....well maybe one for a socket bonus.

Juggling the defence cap is a pain. For example when I got the ilvl 264 BOE boots/legs I went under def cap. For a while I had to wear ilvl 232 legs/boots. I lost like 2k health to be over def cap. Pissed me off.
Crossing my fingers that someday Hit Rating is taken out as well.. I hate seeing upgrades that aren't upgrades because of the massive amount of hit rating on gear.
Hmm, each point of defense gives you 0.04% chance to be missed, parry, dodge, and block a hit, and reduces your chance to be crit by 0.04% as well.

So, in the process of reaching "unable to be crit" status (~5.4% for , you've gained about 15% avoidance and 5% block chance (if you can block). Combined with your talents (usually +5% dodge and parry) and your out-of-the-gate 5% chance to dodge/parry/be missed, you're looking at close to 40% chance to totally avoid an attack.

That's actually the problem that Blizzard has with defense -- it's too good, even after you've reached uncrittable, not that it's bad past a certain point. There's even a point at which defense becomes better than dodge or parry because of diminishing returns on that stat.

Blizzard is changing this avoidance problem in two ways in Cataclysm:

1) No more defense stat means that tanks don't start out with 30-40% avoidance. (20% was a number thrown out for a starting tank) Wrath made this worse by changing a 20 defense skill stat to 5% dodge, although they did add diminishing returns to counter that.

2) Parries are no longer avoidance, they simply reduce the damage done by the next two attacks by 50%, so it will be hard to get past about 30% or so avoidance, and the rest of the damage will be taken as hits. This will also even the playing field on lower-level instances, where warriors and paladins could avoid all damage but DKs and possibly druids would still take damage because they didn't have block.
It already exists. IT's called Armory lookup. The worst Idea Blizzard ever had
In reply to Dwism, I agree that the "mystery" Mastery stat is an interesting unknown in all this.

Considering the way Blizzard are hyping it I'm sure it is going to turn out to be a disappointment. They have said that it will encourage you to use "your" kind of armour, and I think there was also mention of how it would augment your chosen talents. Perhaps it is not too far-fetched, then, to expect that it will become a one-size-fits-all replacement for defense, mp5, spell power, armor penetration... Here's hoping that won't happen!
I hate that they are making tanking as uninteresting as dps. This isn't so much about the defense stat, as it is removing crushing blows from the game and the other "buffs" that remove game play elements. The threat I generate is so insane that I could go afk mid-fight for a good 30 seconds on a boss and not even worry about losing aggro, even against people doing absolutely bonkers 7k dps. And if I do, so what? Most of them are tauntable for christs sake. Even AOE tanking is vastly easier than it once was.

So I don't have to worry about defense, I don't have to worry about crushing. I don't have to worry about generating threat, because if I do my rotation, NO ONE CAN POSSIBLY CATCH ME, and if they do I can just taunt back. As a warrior I don't even have to worry about mana or w/e since in a raid situation the boss ensures I have as much rage as I can spend.

I would prefer it if they made tanking more difficult, somehow or another. Maybe make it a real choice between a stam gem and an evasion gem. Maybe make me hustle to defend myself again, or even more.

It just feels like I'm getting turned more and more into a bar of stamina, and as long as the healers keep that bar green and I'm minimally competent, its all win.
As a druid tank, I fully support the defense change and welcome my tanking brothers into the loldefense circle.
I think this could be workable if it weren't just gear related. Say a combination of performance stat averages in a forumula. Something taking into account your average performance (dps or healing or aggro) and your gearscore vs dungeon/raid difficulty.

A metric of sorts that would show how well YOU perform on average. Not just your gear.
It's not quite as horrible as you make it sound.

Druids already didn't have to deal with defense, but I still carried two sets of gear for tanking and dps, because lots of stats are great for tanking but useless for dps (armor, dodge, extra stam), and only had a few pieces that were usable for both sets of gear. It wasn't much better than on my paladin who needs a full set of extra gear to dps.

Second, defense is not a minor improvement, it's a solid stat, even after you are uncrittable. No, it's not as good as stam or dodge, but it's not that far from those. If you are min-maxing, then yes you must regem for exactly 540, but being over as a paladin or warrior is at worst a very small error. Only dks really lose much by gemming defense instead of something else.

If you think about it, this makes sense -- if defense was really terrible as a tank stat, we wouldn't bother to reach uncrittable, we would just stack enough stam and armor that we could afford to be crit once in a while (like bears dealt with crushing blows in BC). The reason we stack defense instead is because while you are gaining anti-crit, defense is the most effective avoidance stat and the most effect average case effective health stat (might be borderline for dk's, but it's at least very good).

Also, I wear my tank gear and use prot spec for soloing and love it. All that defense is avoidance, so when I'm dealing with non-elite non-magic dmg mobs, I can kill roughly as many at a time as I can pull. It's true, when I just need to kill one mob, it takes me 10 seconds instead of 5, but when you need to kill 50, prot and tank gear is totally the way to go.

Hit is the same way -- the *reason* dps must be hitcapped is that hit is the most effective stat for increasing your dps. For the dps classes where that isn't true (kitty druids at least, maybe rogues as well?)-- they should not worry about the hit cap, and people who won't group with them without it are dumbasses.
Honestly the entire dumbing down of stats annoys me. Yes it makes the game easier... or maybe more fair no matter your archetype, but I look at everything as precedence to alter more things later. (Slippery slope)

While no one change Blizzard has announced about Catcylsm is damning, in fact many are good, when you combine them all it appears to me at least that Blizzard is trying to make WoW as simple as possible. It is starting to look like Blizzard wants WoW to compete against Fusion Falls as far as simplicity and learning curve are concerned.

Again I’m not against this, it’s just that it feels like a slippery slope we are slowly sliding down.

I agree in that I'd prefer WoW to be generally more difficult especially the solo content. However, simplifying stats isn't the same as making it easier. It was never difficult to see what stats you needed, it was always a case of looking at rawr or something similar to see what your optimum stats are. Even without anything like that it was more time consuming than difficult. The difficulty in WoW is in the encounter designs, not picking stats. The resut of simplified stats is less time will be spent working out what stats are needed, leaving more time to actually play the game.
So yeah, I'd like to see a harder WoW, but harder in terms of challenging content, not complicated stat systems.

That's the thing. At face value this is a good change, but when combined with EVERYTHING else it is just another instance of simplification. Now making things simpilier isn't always bad, it's the overall direction that WoW is going that I'm worried about.

Sure make WoW more aproachable to get that 80% of players who don't stay past level 10, but don't reduce everything in the game down to the point of requiring no thought.
I have a hard time with the belief that this is Blizzard "dumbing down" the stats. What percentage of the playerbase understands Armor Penetration? What percentage of tanks have an in-depth knowledge of the attack table?

Not many.

Simplification does not equal dumbification. I think the changes will, in the end, be a good thing. The only thing that I worry about are the theorycrafters telling us what new talent & mastery & state combinations are the BEST, and everyone will do what they have always done, be led like sheep to the most viable spec available for their class.

I wish Blizzard could be more radical in their changes to classes to allow true customization where, for example, every Mage spec can top the DPS charts in their own special way. I'm afraid Blizzard won't go far enough, but taking away some stats I have no problem with.
The more I read about WoW, the less I understand why it has been the success it has. Most posts are incomprehensible to me even after playing the game for 6 months. The degree of technical knowledge required to get beyond the most basic part of the game (the only part I played) seems outrageous.

How on earth does it both have ten times as many players as other MMOs of its kind and have a reputation for simplicity?

WoW has the reputation it does because it is such a multi-layered experience. The vast majority of people playing WoW don't even know that blogs like Tobold's or sites like exist. They play the game without addons, occasionally pugging a raid, doing dungeons, working on achievements, etc. The game for them is simple and intuitive.

At the next level, someone might read a few times a week, have some understanding of the synergy of their class and spec their characters accordingly, and might even run an addon or two. They won't be worrying about things like armor pen caps, or soft haste caps for casters. All they know or care about is whether a stat is good for their character or not.

There are many more levels of complexity and depth to WoW's systems, but what I think Blizzard is trying to do is make it so the semi-casual player who is somewhat interested in those systems doesn't have to rely on outside sources to get even a base understanding of the game mechanics. I wager that the stat change will do nothing to reduce the complexity of the game for those who really want to dive into it (and with things like Reforging where for the first time players can reallocate some stats, I think it will be even more complex to truly min/max) but for everyone else, they will at least have a good shot at understanding the game. That's a lot more satisfying for all than looking at a strange collection of stats, at a loss for what they do and how they affect play.
Bhagpuss, complexity is all relative. You can ignore most of this stuff for non-raid play.

Most of this discussion is somewhat irrelevant; you don't need any defense enchants or gems to hit the cap; just a lot of badge gear.
I always found the defense cap a lot of fun while gearing up my warrior, compared to my bear's insatiable thirst for stamina.
Tobold, I normally enjoy reading what you have to say here and feel that you do a good job of taking a moderate and data-based position on most of the issues you address. I feel that today, however, you've really screwed up, possibly due to a misunderstanding of how defense rating works. I want to break out a couple of quotes in particular for attention:

"If you are over the arbitrary 540, the added points put into that stat confer only a minor bonus, and are effectively wasted"

As an avoidance stat, defense rating beyond the 689 necessary for crit immunity in raids is still very competitive. On my own gear I am currently stacking defense more than I really ought to, but yet a defense gem will add 95.7% as much avoidance as a dodge gem while providing 111.5% as much avoidance as a parry gem. The defense gem will also provide a little block rating (~0.16%) too. In other words, defense beyond the cap still provides competitive benefits in terms of avoidance.

"[Y]ou *need* to be defense capped in groups (535 for heroics, 540 for raids) if you don't want to get one-shotted"

At low levels of effective health, this is true. As tank health and armor increase, however, the danger posed by crits declines. I have written elsewhere ( about this. Basically, don't believe everything you hear about the necessity of crit immunity. Based my own experience, I suspect that 28k health and 26k armor are more than sufficient to tank with no crit immunity whatsoever. I would imagine too that more skilled tanks than I can safely tank with even less health and armor.
@ Toxic "You can ignore most of this stuff for non-raid play."

I wanted to highlight this because I think its a topic worth discussing. We have already had the debate of how much it would suck to raid without DMB, Omen, Recount, Decursive, etc, but are they absolutely necessary?

Taken a step further, does Blizzard choose to, or maybe, do they have to design new content in mind knowing these add-ons exist?

I have also found it intriguing, funny, and at time downright ironic that many in the WoW community complain about how the game has become "ez-mode" while also demanding achievements, gearscore, resume and cover letter, etc.

It all seems to me to be a level of simply elitism. In vanilla, it was about having epics, they proved your ability (or ability to stand with 39 other people). Now, its GS, addons, and clever jargon that proves your elitism.
Champions Online had a group stat, it was called Presence.

If you were in a tanking stance, it increased your threat.

If you were not in a tanking stance, it decreased your threat.

It had the added effect of increasing the amount of healing you could do as well.

So... pretty much useless when soloing, incredibly important when grouping, though I never got to a high enough level to know exactly how important it would be in end-game.
I feel that today, however, you've really screwed up, possibly due to a misunderstanding of how defense rating works.

I would guess from your explanation that the misunderstanding is yours: You are talking about the situation when wearing ICC epics. I was talking about much, much lower level gear, the point where you still need to put +defense gems in nearly every slot just to reach the cap. As at that point you have much less effective health, any point you waste on defense beyond the cap is seriously hurting your stamina and effective health.
How on earth does it both have ten times as many players as other MMOs of its kind and have a reputation for simplicity?

Good games are easy to learn and hard to master.

You sound like wondering why soccer has been such a success, although you need to train every single day for 8 hours to be competitive :).
What is the Defense stuff you speak about? :)

Drood tankz haz def cap from talantz!
Tobold, at lower levels nobody gives a crap about def. Anybody with a shield is good for anything below heroics. 540 is pretty easy to get, and capping for heroics is, once again, not a big deal. The only really scary thing for badly geared tanks in heroics is the trash pulls; it can get pretty hairy when 5 or 6 elite mobs are banging on you. The bosses are much less worrisome. The bosses are no sweat with any half competent healer until you get to the top end heroics.
If the cap thing was an unintentional side effect the devs didn't intend, fair enough to argue it.

But if they did intend it to be part of the difficulty of the game, even if only tanks have to face it...well, what? Do you think difficulty in any particular game has to revolve around what you personally dislike?

Just because you don't like something, doesn't mean it's a bug.
There is a huge difference between bug and bad game design. And just because you like that bad game design doesn't make it good. If it were good game design, Blizzard wouldn't be removing it.
And equally just because you don't like what you call bad game design, doesn't mean it's universally bad.

I've studied game design for long enough that I follow what a designer intends for their game and whether they are succeeding at their own goal rather than try and press some invented idea of 'good game design' on them like a game designer missionary.

That is exactly why I'm disillusioned with WoW. It isn't the game, it's the player elitism.
*obligatory gearscore does this already joke*
And to be clear, this is what the intended goal of the Cataclysm stat changes are meant to be, paraphrasing Lhivera, a famous WoW theorycrafter

- Making decisions on what "is" or "is not" an upgrade hard/interesting
- Understanding _why_ something "is" or "is not" an upgrade easy

Making the stats more intelligible, and making decision-making more fun. Right now, figuring out what the stats do is hard, but making upgrade decisions is eas(ier)
If it were good game design, Blizzard wouldn't be removing it.

I disagree with this. Blizz makes games to make money. There business is to make money. They would rather please 75% of the casuals who dont understand the game then to please 25% of the hard core people who work for their items.

Def isnt a hard thing to understand, but for blizz to simplify all the stats (now and in the future) makes it easier for new people to understand and get "hooked" on the game. We have seen this since Vanilla that things in general have been getting simplified. Sure theres hard modes and ICC, but your not actually seeing anything different really just a few more things happen. I miss the days where going into AQ40 and downing a boss ment something.

Another words dont get game design and money mixed up. I work in one of the biggest oil companies in the world and in IT there is a lot of things that can be better, but dont because of money. The game designers might think that Def is a good thing and they want it in, but the top people who make the decisions say well yes but if we make things easier then we get more subs which equal more money.
The problem isn't that defense is hard to understand. It's that it's little more than a "you will be a much much worse tank unless you have this arbitrary number and no one will want you in their group, ever."
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