Rogues – Abilities, Specs and Weapons… WTF

I was looking at MMO-Champion and in one of their posts where they collect Blue Posts I saw the following text.  It ties into some of what I want to say in this post so I thought I would include it for reference.

Blue Posts from the Forums Here.

Whenever we see comments like this, we immediately assume that you have a different vision for class / spec / whatever than we do. If that is the case, you are likely to find yourself frustrated and scratching your head a lot when our changes never make the design converge on what you think it should be.

Now, we do want Subtlety to be more attractive. All of the pure dps classes have a spec that isn’t as popular as the others. Mages may be the closest because at least Frost has a viable PvP use, but there are also plenty of mages who want to be able to use Frost in end-game PvE too.

Subtlety (and Frost for that matter) are specs focused around utility. The problem is that players understandably nearly always choose damage over utility for raiding and often choose utility over damage for PvP, unless the damage is really high or the utility just doesn’t cut it for some reason.

What we are talking about doing is sharing more of the utility among other specs, or the core class, so that there aren’t “utility trees.” To do that though, we have to make the way the different specs do damage different enough so that players might choose a play-style preference over highest damage. This is particularly challenging for rogues, who have a history of giving up a preferred spec or play style for one with a sub 1% dps increase.

I think we are closest with the Arcane vs. Fire mage specs at the moment. They play a little differently, which goes beyond just the type of magic damage they do. While Fire might still do the highest damage overall, Arcane is close enough and plays different enough that even competitive players don’t feel stupid for playing that spec. There are a lot more Arcane mages out there than I think a lot of players assume.

That is harder with rogues. “I’m the sneaky one” doesn’t translate into sustained raid dps. Assassination feels like it emphasizes poisons more and Combat feels like it emphasizes weapons more, so we’re a little closer there. Subtelty needs a stronger yet damage-oriented niche.

HaT, sadly, is not a niche. HaT has scaling problems. It’s appropriate for a 5-player group, but gets too in larger groups with all of their raid buffs. We don’t want HaT to be the one talent that pushes players into Subtlety.

Now my Opinions of Rogue Gameplay

I find the rogue class in general to be somewhat schizophrenic in tree and abilities.  Before the rogue lovers lynch me on this one let me explain more fully.

The three trees are Assassination/Combat/Subtlety and at least when I want to think of archetypes for these I would select Assassin/Swashbuckler/Street Thug.  The problem with these archtypes which the lore and theme of the trees seem to suggest is that the skill and weapon implementation don’t match up.

Artemis EntreriAssassin - Poisons, Bleeds with a nasty finisher are what this spec is suppose to bring to mind.  However when I am soloing or even in groups when playing assassination I end up putting my bleeds on to get Hunger for Blood and then just go into a Eviscerate and Rupture rotation of finishers to keep up Slice and Dice.  Now I admit to not being the best rogue out there.  Hell I am lucky to be an average Rogue but , I seem to do acceptable damage for my gear, which is all I really strive for on any of my DPS classes.  The image to the right is of the miniature of Artemis Entreri from the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons.

inigo4Combat - Swashbuckler so Swords and now Axes.  So essentially the dual wielding, one handed, melee monster.  The picture I selected for this is from the movie The Princess Bride, which I am sure most reading this post will be familiar with.  Now both the Dread Pirate and Inigo both really fit into the archetype for swashbuckler.  I will get into my issues with Rogue mechanics after highlighting the theme of each tree.

Batman LogoSubtlety - This tree is really about getting the drop on your target.  Which is why it is one of the harder trees to get a focus on for PvE.  It is really hard to get a drop on the boss, especially when they are pretty much immune to all of your lock down abilities.  Also given all the new amounts of AoE that bosses and their minions throw around being reliant on openers is a bit of a weak spot.  Now the image icon that I immediately think of when someone say stealthy and rogue one image comes to mind.  I don’t think I need to explain the image either.

Issues with Gameplay

My first and foremost complaint about Rogue mechanics from the perspective of actually playing one, not QQing about them on the forums after getting ganked by one, deals with the their specs and abilities interact with the weapons they use or lack thereof.  To put it simply too many of their abilities are weapon specific or have multiple caveats based on weapon.

Lets look at the other melee classes.  This gives us Druids, Shaman, Paladins, Warriors and Deathknights, now I am going to ignore Druids in this exercise, sorry those coming from Restokin because Druid feral weapon mechanics make it a moot point.  The other 4 classes that use melee weapons with a very few exceptions do not have their specs and abilities drastically changing based on the weapon they have equipped.  For all intents and purposes an Axe = Sword = Mace = Dagger for one handed weapons and 2H-Sword = 2H-Mace = 2H-Axe = Pole-arm for calculating damage.  Now I know there are some weapon specializations in the Warrior Arms tree but in all of the other trees the specific type of weapon in irrelevant and only the broad category matters, 1H versus 2H.

After looking at some of the source code for Rawr, which is a very useful dps/tanking modeling program, from the equations these differences especially for the Rogue are because they use Average Weapon damage to calculate the damage value of special abilities.  This is why certain classes want a slow main hand weapon, because as damage output for such abilities increases as the time between swings increases.  This is because to maintain a consistent DPS for a tier of weapons if the swing timer goes up so must the average damage per swing.

Now when I first started looking into this I went to WoWhead and copied the names of about 30 1 handed and 2 handed weapons.  I then looked at the min damage and max damage that each weapon would do before taking anything else into consideration.  The really cool thing was that on average over all any weapon’s min and max damage when compared to the average of the 2 values is +/- 30%.  The gambit of values were between at 28.9 – 31.1 so a quick eye balling of the numbers tells you it hovers around 30%.  So what this means is that if we want all special abilities to scale equally based on the DPS of the weapon.  Then we just need to take the DPS * (.7 – 1.3) + all other modifiers.  This then removes the weapon speed component from the formula directly as it is an intrinsic part of the DPS.

If we were to base special ability damage off of DPS and not weapon damage.  Then this means that Back-stab, Mutilate and any other abilities that may have a limit placed on them because of previous weapon speed dependency can have it removed.

This was very annoying when leveling Assassination because there were so few Dagger upgrades while leveling.  Ya there are a good amount at 80 but you can get a good pair late 60s/early 70s and then one more set at 76 then nothing until you get the crafted epic or run dungeons at 80.  If you go combat then you loose several of your abilities because they are dagger restricted.  Also as a side note it is really stupid conceptually to have Dagger Main hand and  something else much larger off hand.  When ever I have been fencing with 2 weapons you almost always put the heavier weapon in your main/stronger hand.  Now you may lead with the dagger based on stance and positioning but saying you can’t backstab because your dagger is in your “off” hand is kinda dumb.   It should be as long as a dagger is equipped you can backstab.  The code just checks for first available Dagger.  If you are dual wielding daggers it goes from the main hand otherwise it uses the off hand.

Now the one thing this modification would not affect would be the benefit of a fast off hand for rogues when it comes to energy regen.  I really don’t have a problem with this, however I would say for modeling and balancing purposes that ability should go to a Procs per Minute system.  Similar to the HaT and or the Feral Druid leader of the pack restriction.

All I can say is that I hope that in the 4.0 changes Rogues get an overhaul so that each tree is focused on a couple of weapons each.  The close quarters combat daggers should be merged into the assassination tree because you almost always would go deep in Assassination then go into combat for those first 15-18 talents.  This is where with the new talent allocation screen where you see all 3 trees at once you could start putting interesting talents in the first few tiers of each tree that require talents in 2 trees.  Keep them on the edge with the associated tree.  Assume that to the left of Assassination was Subtlety and the opposite for Subtlety.

Crafting to mini-game or not to mini-game.

So I was planning on releasing my next post as one on Rogues that I have been working on but after seeing a few things in my blog reader I changed my mind.

Ok so I read Tobold’s post about Design principles for crafting and economic systems.  In general he has a nice summary of some of the things that need to be considered when designing a crafting and economic system in a game.  I have thought about the subject at length over the years that I have been playing WoW.  In Tobold’s post he mentions another blogger’s post about crafting interfaces.  Now I looked around Ixobelle’s site a bit and read most of the post that Tobold mentions.  I say most because as soon as I got about half way through I immediately wanted to post here about the subject.

Ixobelle has some very good ideas for a crafting system and an interface for crafting.  I just don’t think they would fit into WoW unless there were major and I mean major overhaul of all crafting and market systems.   While I see the possibility of large changes coming to crafting in Cataclysm I don’t think the changes will be that drastic.  I can also say with 100% certainty that if the crafting system was changed to something like Ixobelle suggests then I would not craft at all.  Not saying that the system would not be a good one, just that it would be a system that was so time and concentration intensive that I would not want to deal with it.

Now I now the question that some may ask is how do you know that you would not want to use such an involved crafting system.  The answer to that is simple, been there done that, thanks but no thanks.  Vanguard boasts about being able to level up as a crafter.  There are 3 facets to your character that can all have independent levels: Adventurer, Diplomat, Crafter.   The system and process that Ixobelle describes is much like Vanguard in the grind-fest that is the crafting process.

The Marketplace

Now one thing that I can agree with between the 2 posts is that WoW needs a new market system regardless of any crafting changes coming.  Also when it comes to the market place be it vendors and or the AH we need to get away from the stack concept.  What I mean by this is that items in the AH are no longer sold in stacks or as individual items.

  • You list items as a total number of items sold of a given type buy a player at a given price.  No more of 3 pages of infinite dust in stacks of 1 sold by the same person.  Yes I have done it to make gold, it is a prickish move I hate everyone that does it even myself when I do it.
  • All AH actions should be queued and on a 1 minute basis all in game mail is sent at once.  This will allow the AH to bundle items into a single mail of up to 12 items or multiple emails 12 stacks at a time.
  • When you buy or sell items to set the number you want to buy.  You then buy that many from that user or as many as they have left.  Since someone may have been able to buy from them at the same time.
  • The auction house is no longer a system of only sell orders.  Users are able to put gold in escrow with the AH to auto buy X items at Y price if a user selects their buy orders.  See EVE-Online’s market.
  • All named static items are now statically listed in the AH whether there are any on the market or not.  Only thing not able to have Buy Orders placed in advance are for random generated items.  So all BoE world and Dungeon drops that are not random (of the bear) types are enumerated in the AH, additionally all crafted unbound reagents, materials, and crafted Items should also be enumerated.  Players are then able to set buy orders.
  • A buy order contains – Player A will buy N Number of Items X at Price Y for the next Z hours(days).

This somewhat involved change would go a long way in improving WoW’s ingame economy.  Currently there is only a trend that over time will deflate prices into absurdity.  However with the buy side of the equation added there will also be inflationary forces in the market.  This will eventually act as a stablilizing force where the buy and sell order price will approach the same value.

Crafting System minor upgrade

Before WoW gets anything like a more involved crafting system it needs to have a bit of a general overhaul first.  The following things I would hope get considered before anything overly drastic is done with how we craft.

  • Full itemization on what we craft.  All slots of a character’s gear should be assigned to a crafting profession.  Not a proposed system that will be implemented 2 expansions from now.  But all slots and item times allocated to one or more professions.
  • Renormalization of crafting materials required. The items we need to craft with are the resources available at the levels we would normally be encountering them and the gear crafted is useful to characters that are actually leveling the profession.  I finally get enough Thorium to buy and craft the chest piece when I hit 60 not the level 52 that the item may be.  You would now level past the point of usefulness just by gathering the resources yourself.
  • Add an intermediate crafting material stage to all professions, similar to Engineering making parts first then crafting an item later.  Blacksmithing  could have Scales, Wire, Rings, Rivits, Hilts, Guards, ect that are crafted first and then combined with other raw and processed resources.

New Type of Pattern

One of my pet ideas when it has come to crafting was the concept of Meta Patterns, given more recent terminology in WoW a Heirloom pattern.  It creates an item where the ILevel of the output is based on the ILevel of the input.

If we are going to approach a mini-game requirement added to crafting I would rather it be an intellectual exercise like a puzzle than an interactive grind-fest like Vanguard.

The greatest change in Cataclysm – Goodbye Defence for Tanks

I have been thinking about making a post about this subject but BBB beat me to it.

Honestly I don’t have the time to write a post for every topic or concert I think about in the game and the various systems.  However since BBB did a good job breaking down what you have to do to get Critical Hits pushed off the table for starting tanks, I want to take this moment to rejoice in the change coming in the next expansion.

Fast Tube by Casper

Right now I am dealing with this BS every time I get a new piece of gear for my Warrior.  What is making it difficult for me is that there are 2 defense trinkets that were added in Wrath.  1 from Loken who has yet to drop it for me.

Loken – N: Seal of the Pantheon
Thaddius – 10:  Repelling Charge

This change is a side effect of the gear homogenization.  Which makes it a pain in the ass for all non-druid tanks to keep the un-crittable state.  I did not say difficult, you can still do it, just an annoying requirement.  Really all of these issues could have been resolved easier if oh I don’t know entire sets of gear were craft-able.  Now a fresh DK, Warrior, Paladin can hit 520 easily at 80 just from the Tempered Saronite set.  What would have been even better would be a 4 set bonus that adds the last 20 defense.  Then you could at least keep those 4 peices while replacing the rest with epics as you do dungeons and other content.  It would be nice if there were even a good amount of Heroic and Valor Emblem gear that had a healthy helping of defense.  There is some don’t get me wrong.  The problems with all Blizzard itemization is they do not proved a complete set of gear for any facet of their game without having to piss with other unrelated content.

There should be an entry level set of gear for dungeon and raid content available through all PvE content.

1 set from questing.

1 set from dungeons.

1 set from crafting.

Another design change that would be nice to see would be a definite progression of dungeons/heroics and raids.

Another tip for the itemization department would be that only your non-random loot can you expect with any amount of accuracy your player base to have when designing the next iteration.  So ya all that new epic gear that has small amounts of defense but tons of parry/dodge/block is great only if the player was lucky enough to be in a raid where the item dropped and they got the time.  Which since your player base moved away form guilds to a PuG mentality for raiding means that the old DKP systems that you forced the player base to rely on to distribute gear fairly falls apart.  I will be posting again about Guild systems soon.

Anyway no matter what anyone says the removal of the Defense Cap mini-game for tanking is a welcomed improvement.


There is one more added from patch 3.2.2 as a reward from the quest with Onyxia’s head.

Purified Onyxia Blood Talisman