CC that you can't outgear

| Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I have a rapidly growing imaginary list of stupid expectations I had for Cataclysm. One was that we wouldn't be quickly outgearing heroics to the point of forgetting about CC, ever. I thought it would at least take another raid tier, or at least current players being fully geared up in the current. Boy was I wrong.

I was wrong in two parts. First off, I thought that there was any sustained desire on Blizzard's part to make heroics more challenging. Why I would think this I cannot fathom. It goes against the entire trend of what has made WoW so successful. Second, I failed to account for the fact that the current mob abilities don't require CC, our relative power levels do.

If those don't seem any different, try this hypothetical: Raging Boars hit for 500 and the entry level tank has 1000 effective health*. In other words, he can potentially die instantly, given two hits at once or very closely spaced. This is a bad scenario. It is literally a roll of the dice whether the tank lives or not. This can be easily fixed by CCing one of the boars or putting it on another tank. Or, a small health gain will allow him to survive simultaneous hits. In this scenario the power level called for CC or gear.

* Effective Health is essentially health multiplied by mitigation, but excluding avoidance. It is an expression of how much damage you can take before dying. It was the theoretical backing for stam-stacking, while the practical reason was that stamina is an easy way for simple-minded people to pick between tanks.

In the other scenario, there is one Raging Boar and one Boar Trainer. Boar Trainers have Death Aura which causes Raging Boars to hit for 100% of enemy health, one-shotting them. Gear cannot fix this. Instead the only way for the tank to survive is to separate the boar and the trainer. The boar could be CCed and the trainer killed first, the trainer kited out of range of the boar, or possibly the disc priest likes a challenge and uses frequent bubbling to keep the total damage he can take slightly above his health. In all of these scenarios it is player action, not player gear, which make the difference.

Somewhere in the middle, which is more desirable, since for many players the true benefit of gear is the ability to play mindlessly, is the third scenario, in which the challenge can be overgeared, but only at an extreme degree. In this scenario, the trainer's Death Aura only causes a 200% damage increase (1500 damage, exceeding even the 1000 damage of two boars at once), so that the required effective health is doubled when he is near the boars. This means that for most gear levels it will be necessary to use some form of CC, but eventually it may be possible to simple take the full damage and DPS quickly to avoid draining healer mana.

Raging Boars and Boar Trainers would make for a pretty boring instance, even for trash. So here are a few other mechanics which will make CC more desirable, hard to outgear, but not a permanent factor.

Fear: It makes us run into adds that we weren't quite expecting. Can be very bad on healers.

Mana Burn: Can really wreck a healer, both in dealing damage to them, but more importantly, in making a big mana pool and regen that much more important.

Roots and Ranged: This can cause a group to scatter, making control more difficulty, making AoE less effective, and possibly running into adds.

AoE spell reflection: If this mob is not dealt with quickly, casters, including paladins and DKs, are not going to be doing very well. Very quick focus fire with non-casters can also deal with this. The reflect would have to exclude spells or else rogues and hunters could become mandatory, and clearly that's a worst case scenario.

What's Aggro?: This is the simple one: a mob that hits hard and ignores normal aggro tables, encouraging CC, kiting, and focus fire.

To me, abilities with a cast time are desirable because they can allow for a more active, aware response of interrupts and target switching than a fire-and-forget CC. While I like kiting, it requires an instance with plenty of room to move, assuming our goal isn't to kill hunters. I admit, that might be a design goal for some players and developers.

I know that I've been making quite a few negative posts recently. These are not a build-up to some massive rage-quit post. My goal isn't to say that WoW sucks, which it doesn't. Instead my goal is to find ways that WoW can improve, which of course means become more fun for me, without alienating the currently gigantic player base. I have nothing but disdain for the angry posts which boil down to more or less: "WoW sucks and you are all stupid for playing it and someone should make my game with permanent death, xp loss, item loss, nine thousand person raids, and no elves or ponies." Those points accomplish nothing. They give developers nothing useful to go off of. For example, "dumbing down" isn't single, reversible change, nor is it even always bad. Frankly I am very glad that Ulduman has been 'dumbed down' with the addition of a map.


Nils said...

It was the theoretical backing for stam-stacking, while the practical reason was that stamina is an easy way for simple-minded people to pick between tanks.

Very true. It's real work to convince your raid that everything in excess of 150k life is definitely bad, because it could also be avoidance. Most bosses hit for no more than 40k at the moment.

About CC:
The main reason it was usual in classic and early TBC was that tanks weren't very good at keeping aggro on more than few mobs. It took some time to convince people that they now suddenly could hold aggro on many mobs in TBC. The public wasn't really convinced until the prot-pala entered during late TBC.

In Cata I usually don't CC anymore. I just jump in and use cooldowns. Much faster and less prone to errors in PUGs.

Korhaug said...

Instead my goal is to find ways that WoW can improve, which of course means become more fun for me, without alienating the currently gigantic player base.

Except not really. For you "more fun" is making WoW more challenging (and I'm with you on that), while for the currently gigantic player base "more fun" means mostly less challenging. So effectively what you're saying is "my goal is to find ways that WoW can improve, which of course means become more fun for me, while only alienating the currently gigantic player base a little".

Which, hey, I can respect, but it's not qualitatively different than suggesting permanent death or raids only 0.01% ever finish, and it's about equally likely to be implemented.

Klepsacovic said...

@Nils: In my experience stam-stacking has died down a bit, now that healer mana isn't an unlimited resource.

In regard to aggro, I think you found something I forgot, which probably does account for a lot of why we used CC. So the fix would seem to be making multi-target aggro harder. But from my own selfish tank perspective, it is an incredibly frustrating thing to see a loose mob and think there's nothing I can do about it. So maybe aggro isn't the way to go. Still worth considering, maybe something to test out.

Korhaug: Separate challenge and cost. A death penalty doesn't add challenge, it adds cost. In that case it will make us more jumpy and nervous, without needing any higher of a skill level. In contrast, wiping more, but let's say having no repair bills and short corpse runs, those will be challenge, but not cost.

At extremes a low enough cost will eliminate challenge, but until we're respawning 5 feet from where we died with full health, I think players would enjoy a mix of more challenge and less cost.

Quantity often becomes quality. Think of a sliver vs. a sword. They both stab you, but one stabs enough worse to cross the pain-death threshold.

As for the .01% raids, those were mostly caused by factors other than challenge, such as the perfectly vertical structure of raids (causes attrition and recruiting problems, as well as guild-killer bosses), progressively more horrible consumable requirements (remember the top guilds openly bragging about their gold buying?), and the general issue of needing 40 people on at the same time for several hours over multiple nights. None of those are skill issues and are challenge in the same way that the DMV is.

Korhaug said...

Separating challenge and cost works well in theoretical space, but in practical terms it doesn't address the main issue.

Failure is not fun.

Even if it doesn't cost you anything meaningful, failure is demoralizing. What's more, most people perceive success and failure disproportionately. Just look at battlegrounds - even though the penalty for being killed is very low (no durability loss, very short res timer and run back) most people find getting killed in a BG a lot more frustrating than they find killing a single enemy satisfying.

Now, obviously there's a middle ground. Some degree of challenge is required for the satisfaction of victory. But this "required challenge" is drastically different between different people (and in wow, if you prefer, populations). I think the current heroics are rather easy, and Tier11 normal raids are only mildly challenging. However a vast majority of the wow population find raids impossible and that heroics take 3 hours and are a roulette.

So the question is (and has always been) where you aim the dial. I've seen many suggestions about how to move it more towards the "difficult" end, but they all miss the point - Blizzard doesn't want WoW to be more challenging.

Klepsacovic said...

I demand that you cease and desist using my trademark habit of rapid self-contradiction. You say failure is not fun, but failure is necessary for victory to mean anything, meaning that in isolation it is not fun, but when it all adds up, failure in the right amounts is fun.

Yes, it is all arbitrary and personal. I also think much of it is learned. The player population is still used to facerolling through quick LK heroics, so they're going to be rushing their pulls, making careless mistakes, and making it take even longer. The heroics are out of place in general, with everything else, beside raids, still rushed and throwing rewards every five seconds, so players are going to have a hard time slowing down.

Sthenno said...

Failure really isn't fun. Trying hard and suffering setbacks and eventually winning is fun. The thing is that when I go into an instance with my guildmates our victory is inevitable. It's a question of how hard and how long. With a PuG you really might just fail and walk away with nothing but resentment. I think that's what accounts for the complex of "dumbing down" and then making things harder again. They are trying to figure out what's fun.

AoE aggro was definitely a consideration, but there were other reasons to CC in TBC dungeons. After the second boss, you had to do multiple pulls in slavepens that looks like this: 2 mobs with an AoE fear that deaggro'd them from the tank who could one-shot anyone who wasn't in plate, 1 mob with mind control, 1 other mob. Remember that Slave Pens was considered one of the easiest heroics.

Klepsacovic said...

Where is the line between setback and failure?

I'm not advocating a trend of going into a PUG and walking out with nothing. Beyond not being fun, that would be frustrating, demoralizing.

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