4% Is Exciting

| Sunday, December 4, 2011
You, person whining about how passive talents are boring, please shut up. About that specific subject, not in general. Passive talents are exciting. EXCITING!

Let's walk through things a bit. Here is a level 51 rogue. What does he have going for the next level? Well let's see... nothing. Next? Nothing. Only at level 54 does he get envenom. Woo! Excitement! In... three levels.

Now let's give him a Terribly Boring Passive Talents-Filled Talent Tree (TBPTFTT). Next level he can... well actually I'm not sure what talent he'd take at level 42 because the trees already got butchered. So let's say he's combat and will get Improved Sinister Strike for 4% damage to sinister strike, a terribly boring passive talent that I just made up and which he took after having picked up the 31 point talent which was exciting: Super Sinister Strike, which is like Sinister Strike, but it does more damage and adds a buff to increase his Sinister Strike damage by 25% for 20 seconds, with a three minute cooldown, which because it is a button makes it Fun & Exciting. In time he can get an entire 5 points for a total of +20% damage to Sinister Strike which leads into Even Better Sinister Strike which causes his Sinister Strike to have a chance (Ooh, no stated chance! I bet it's a PPM! Quick, theorycraft the slow weapons! Or maybe fast! What is the poison mechanic this week?) to reset the cooldown on Super Sinister Strike and also Improve Sinister Strike will now apply to Super Sinister Strike.

In other words, he hits level 42 and presses another button. Wee. WEE! INDEED!

That added button makes level 42 just a little bit more rewarding and eagerly anticipated. And level 44 too! With this boring passive talent he now has something to look forward to for level 42. It's not a big thing, but it is something. Contrast this with the typical nothing. Now what is boring? Yea, NOTHING. Nothing, outside of philosophy, is pretty fucking boring.

The boring passive talent isn't just a button. It's also a tantalizing possibility. Now there is that box that says 1/5 Improved Sinister Strike increases the damage of Sinister Strike by 4% and if you mouse over it also says that 2/5 would increase it by 10%. Right there, that is room for growth. Oh man, 2/5 is on its way. And then 46, that's 3/5! 48 gives 4/5. And then... oh shit, it's level 50! Ooh, side-track time to get that sweet 40 point talent (note that there may not actually be a sweet level 40 talent, if not, shift things up or down by 10 levels and you'll find one). But level 52, bam, box is filled up with a 5/5 and now he can see that Even Better Sinister Strike is at an empty 0/2. Looks like he has a plan for level 54 and 56. Sweet. Who knows what 58 will be, but damn, it's only going to be one point before level 60 and we know level 60 is going to ROCK.

But leveling ends and now... Now he's just a level 85. Or 97, whatever the level cap is for MoP. Now he's filled up his tree and there's nothing left. He can respec. And now, well now those passive abilities are pretty damn boring. Woop-dee-doo, 4% damage to Sinister Strike. Who fucking cares? On the other hand, Super Sinister Strike... also, who fucking cares? He's now making exciting choices anymore. He's picking the talents that he's supposed to have. There aren't going to be any exciting talents because there is no more advancement and no choice. Blame the level cap and excessive optimization, not the TBPTFTT. You thought I wasn't going to get to use that. Idiot.

"But," you say, "we have MoP now and we don't have all those silly talents. We have Fun & Exciting choices." Like hell you do.


GrumpyReign said...

I may or may not have discussed this with you before: the old EQ system was all about incremental growth, almost indefinite. And there's lots of it. You saw EQ2's system, which was essentially talents but with the EQ twist of having to earn the points via siphoning XP. Do not like. But being in a situation where less than .1% of the player base ever truly "finish" developing their character within an expansion is probably why EQ isn't entirely dead yet.

Ahtchu said...

You're absolutely correct. 4% is HUGE. A 4% gain, when considered across a system of controls can yield an amazing amount of significance. The jet engine industry spends billions of dollars to take a bypass separate stream concept and render it to a mixed stream for the gains it yields. The requirements to make this happen are astronomical, but the investment is worth it. And what's the payoff? About a 4-6% gain.
The 'gimme gimme' gamers might scoff at 4%, but those with the smallest inkling of knowledge concerning how a concert of systems operate in harmony will welcome 4% with open arms.

We Fly Spitfires said...

I think you destroyed my sarcasm detector ;)

Passive abilities like choosing between 'being WAY better at defending' or 'being WAY better at attacking', I get. They have a noticeable impact and define your character. But choosing between being 4% better at Parry or being 4% better at Dodge? No. It's unnoticeable and serves no purpose other than providing a vanity reward to encourage you to reach the next target by playing more.

Of course, unlocking another active button to press that doesn't bring anything new to the table is just as bad. Personally what I want is to see are forms of progression that force us to make meaningful and impactful choices. It doesn't have to be either active or passive, it just has to be a thought provoking choice that makes a difference and affects your playstyle.

Klepsacovic said...

@GrumpyReign: You may have and just like Godwin's Law, as the time increases, the odds approach 100% that you will lecture me on EQ again. :)

@Ahtchu: I'm not sure there are any good comparisons to be found. Spending billions to gain 4% on another stream of billions will have a noticeable payoff. I'm not sure what the exact payoff is on 4% of a fraction of a rogue's damage. But that's not what I'm aiming at. It could be .4% and it would still work.

@Gordon: This post is not meant to be sarcastic at all. It was originally meant to be caustic, but I decided to remove "dipshits" from the title.

Is there a time when we choose between 4% parry and 4% dodge? If you don't mind me focusing on this specific, rather than the general concept that I'm sure you were aiming for, let's run with this. 4% parry will be better due to the parry-haste effect (or is that gone? In that case, it's a mechanic problem ruining talents, not a problem with the talents themselves). But maybe there are DRs in effect, so if we're at high gear levels we want the dodge instead (because we'd been loading parry up to that point), or maybe the reverse: we loaded up on cheap dodge and could then get more benefit from 4% parry. There can be some situational decision-making, but sadly, like most optimizations, someone else has done it first and with much better modeling than we can scribble on a napkin.

The 4% definitely fits your "affects your playstyle" requirement. This rogue is going to focus more on sinister strike, instead of maneuvering around for backstabs or if he'd gone a different tree, mutilate. That's the thing, people focus so much on the few activated abilities as the play-changers, when it is the stacks of passive improvements that lay the foundation and justify switching styles. Without Imp SS and Even Better SS, I'm sure this rogue would use SS much less often.

Azuriel said...

Nope, you're wrong, passive talents are not exciting.

You said so yourself: what's exciting is seeing 1/5, or filling up a box. Not the 4% extra damage, which is completely invisible and irrelevant. These passive talents are the Close Door buttons on elevators; no one really knows if they work, they just press them to feel better.

And keep in mind that the excitement you're talking about that "justifies" +4% whatever? It lasts maybe 15 seconds past the ding.

If someone isn't excited about hitting level 52, that could be a problem. It is not a problem that should be solved with mindless, boring +X% talents however. Whatever happened to being excited about getting to equip that "Requires level 52" item? Or being eligible to run a new dungeon? Or even simply getting better stats? And even if nothing of note happens at 52... guess what? That sense of anticipation simply gets pushed to level 54 when you suddenly get the rather game-changing Relentless Strikes.

Klepsacovic said...

@Azuriel: You're right, I am clearly completely out of touch with my own feelings. How could I possibly think I ever enjoyed the old talent trees? I must have misremembered everything. Maybe I never even played WoW and for all these years I've just been sitting in front of a blank screen.

It might only be me, but when I get the little damage boosts like that, I start staring at the numbers, seeing if I can find one a little bit higher. It's a little game unto itself.

"If someone isn't excited about hitting level 52, that could be a problem." Yes. And a little bit more can help with that. I'm not suggesting that a 4% damage talent is the prime motivator for the next two levels. It's another little bit. A small thing, but what isn't? The 4 strength, 20 health, and of course the all-important 2 spirit I gain is a small thing, but it's nice to have (these are all made-up umbers meant to be similar to the stat gains from leveling). They all add up to make leveling just a little bit more fun. A new dungeon, a new item, those are part of that, and definitely not things that I am trying to marginalize. Now that you've given me the idea, maybe I'll write about the anticipation of wearing a new piece of gear or seeing a new dungeon. I know that getting near level 50 I was always excited when it was time for BRD, even on my fiftieth alt.

Beside all that, so what? Ultimately may post may be irrelevant because it doesn't matter if a particular talent is exciting. Why should it? The individual elements do not need to be exciting, but the overall experience. The ground in Ogrimmar is terribly dull, and yet I would not suggest replacing it with the much more exciting and dynamic post-Patchwerk slimes. It is a solid foundation on which to run, just as percentage gains are a solid foundation on which to create a character's specialization.

Ahtchu said...

My experience doesn't lie with the business model, so I can speak to it with only mild authority. The billions involved across many decades in R&D don't see a payoff until 10-14 years after the model is selected for installation into several craft. Considering a billion buy-in for something that only has the potential to break even a decade, decade and a half later is truly a wonder.
My argument wasn't in this area, however. I was trying to highlight the importance of a "mere" 4%. Like you say, 0.4% would work, and you're absolutely right. The improvements, no matter how "scant" actually yield payoffs worth pursuing in ALL cases. I /salute your OP.

Azuriel said...

You're right, I am clearly completely out of touch with my own feelings.

Admitting the problem is always the first step to recovery. /thumbsup

If you had fun with it, fine, but there is such a thing as "a little bit" being worse than nothing. Indeed, getting 1% extra damage in comparison to getting Crusader Strike or, hell, Sanctity Aura is almost insulting. I'm already looking forward to the talents that actually change my gameplay, and "interacting" with the talent tree knowing that instead of said excitement I will be receiving another piece of coal instead... I would rather they not bother.

I will grant you, as I mentioned before, that while I believe the current and future system is better than before, Blizzard has also de-emphasized all the other exciting bits that come with leveling. Had they remained intact, they would have mitigated the disappointment of the 1-4 level gaps.

Klepsacovic said...

@Azuriel: "getting 1% extra damage in comparison to getting Crusader Strike or, hell, Sanctity Aura is almost insulting" How? It's not as if there is some "this or that" tradeoff, that you can only get 1% or CS, but not both. You can get both. Leveling milestones get different rewards which is not insulting. Look at real life: at major milestones like graduations or marriages you get much nicer gifts than at birthdays, and you probably get nicer gifts at the multiples of ten, than at other years. I have yet to be insulted that my off-year birthday gifts were significantly smaller than those for graduation. They were all nice to get and help to mitigate some of the sense of doom as I get ever-closer to the level cap.

Tesh said...

I still find it interesting that we fuss about what happens when you level instead of the moment to moment play. I, for one, don't like game design that's always teasing me with incremental endorphine boosts if I can just... keep... going. I prefer games that are always fun to play, no matter the dings. (Yes, fun is subjective... the point is that I'm in it for the play, not the rewards.)

Perhaps in contradiction, though, I've found that I like to play Torchlight on the second playthrough just maximizing my Alchemist's pet skills, Ember Lance and various passives. That way, I can just waltz through a level, let my minions do the heavy lifting and just blast with the superlaser 'Lance in a pinch. Yes, it does mean that I'm doing pretty much the same thing all the time, but I want to push through to see how far that strategy works in the bonus dungeons.

...I didn't play that way the first time, but this time I'm playing for a different reason. I'm just pushing the system to see how far a streamlined boring build can go. In other words, I'm playing the metagame more than the game. I'm weird that way.

Klepsacovic said...

@Tesh: You might find this post interesting; in part it suggests that people play different games for different reasons. Going along with that, we can assume that people will even play the same game in different ways and with different paths to fun.

Tesh said...

*chuckle* indeed. I'm not actually disagreeing with you either. Mostly, I find that those passive bonuses, even little percentage things, actually are good for the way I'm playing sometimes. I actually went out of my way back in Vanilla WoW to find passive bonuses in the talent tree.

Post a Comment

Comments in posts older than 21 days will be moderated to prevent spam. Comments in posts younger than 21 days will be checked for ID.

Powered by Blogger.