Thursday, March 29, 2012

CiV modding, D3 and WOW memories

My new CiV balance mod is up on the mod hub.  Search for orangecape and you will find it easily.  I have discovered that the best way to get myself to dream up all kinds of great new changes is to publish something; despite the fact that it makes a lot more sense to come up with great stuff *before* publishing that doesn't seem to be the way things work in my head.

I have been trying out lots of builds for the Witch Doctor on the D3 character builder and I like this one the best.   It has a ton of pets, the extremely overpowered Soul Harvest and what seems to be the best spammable attack spell, Zombie Charger (Undeath Rune).  The thing about this build is that it leverages what is likely to be a really overpowered passive ability:  Vision Quest (VQ).  VQ increases your mana regeneration by 300% while at least four abilities are on cooldown.  It is a fairly sizable constraint to get 4 abilities that have cooldowns, though obviously not *that* hard, and it is a significant disadvantage to need to keep them on cooldown all the time.  I might want to save my 2 minute cooldown for something hard, for example, rather than just casting it as soon as it comes up.  Increasing mana regen by 300% is so enormous a benefit though that I can't help but think that using this ability will be mandatory at endgame.

The WD has some abilities that cost virtually no mana but which are weaker and some that are very expensive but stronger.  This allows the WD to pick some of each and be able to regenerate mana while casting weak spells and blow mana as needed.  VQ increasing mana regen by 300% means that you probably won't need any cheap spells and can spend all of your time casting powerful spells instead.  The powerful spells look to be twice as good at least as the cheap ones so having VQ active is an enormous increase to overall damage potential.  My build leverages VQ pretty heavily, even including Pierce the Veil, a passive ability that gives 20% more damage at a cost of spending 30% more mana.

It is difficult to say exactly what mana will look like at high levels without having seen the gear and mana pool formulas but if mana cost is meant to be a significant factor in spell selection (which it certainly seems to be) then I can't see how increasing mana regen by 300% won't be the best build.  This is particularly true when you can then ditch all of your cheap spells to make room for 4 spells with cooldowns.  If I had to really warp my build to squeeze in VQ then it might be a bigger question but I am definitely going to be playing with 3 cooldown abilities anyhow so fitting in the fourth hardly seems like a stretch.

This feels like a very strange sort of situation because I don't see comparable situations with other classes.  There are certainly passive abilities that are better than others but I certainly don't see classes other than the WD broken down into two distinct groups:  VQ builds and non VQ builds.  Also in the case of other classes you could remove a particular passive effect and the build would still be playable but in the case of VQ the build is utterly dependent on it; you will run out of mana and be fairly useless if VQ is removed.  It is possible that other sources of mana regen will make it such that VQ is merely a noticeable boost to mana instead of a total game changer; in which case it is possible that it will be a good design.  Right now though it looks like you play an entirely different and much more powerful game when you have VQ and people without it will be drastically worse off.

Maybe I shouldn't be pointing out broken stuff about the class I intend to play prior to launch?  Blizzard might be listening after all and I could well get myself nerfed to the ground baby! ;)

I remember back when Wrath launched for WOW and ret paladins got a really savage and necessary nerf; Hobo messaged me to ask if my class was bad now.  Well, I replied, I am pretty sure I am still the best dps class but now the margin is about 15% instead of 40%.


  1. I'm really not sure how mana will work at all. Through level 13 mana regen stays constant at 20 per second. If that remains the same then you'd be looking at only 80 even with VQ and the "expensive" spells like Zombie Charger still wouldn't be spammable. On the other hand, if the game is playable at all without VQ then there must be some way to up your mana regen. Otherwise even with a speed 1 weapon you'd only be able to cast a zombie charger every 14 seconds of lobbing firebombs. With a 1.5 speed weapon you'd only case a zombie charger every 28 seconds without VQ. I can't really see a way to balance a "times 4" effect, even when it costs 14 times as much mana do to a little over twice as much damage.

    The closest analogue I can find in another class is the Barbarian passive that gives you 25% more damage at full fury. Basically this passive leads to a complete different build than you would have with out. But the passive only makes that build strong instead of weak. VQ makes its build absurd instead of useless.

    Anyway, I'm rooting for you to get to play with your ridiculous VQ build. It will get nerfed at some point, but it'll be more fun if it gets nerfed after you get to try it out.

  2. Oh, on a somewhat related note I plan on playing a no-signature-spell wizard. But doing that effectively requires devoting almost all of your abilities to doing so, not just one passive.

  3. Do you have a link to the build?

  4. The Skill Calculator is all messed up right now. It seems they changed some numbers (Wizards do about 10% more damage across the board?) but the barbarian one is really messy, the tooltips are all over the place.

    Anyway, this is what I was planning for my all disintegrate all the time wizard:!YXf!aZZZZY

    Not to say that it's an overpowered build, because I don't think it is, it's just what I want to do (requires 1 or 1.1 speed weapon to work properly).

  5. You have Magic Weapon in your build. It reads as if it increases your physical damage done, like when you walk up to people and hit them with your staff. Is it really intended to be a 20% damage increase? I doubt that, but I have no way to confirm, obviously.

    This was my build for the No Signature Wizard.!YXZ!acYZZZ

  6. It was definitely increasing your damage by whatever percent it said it was when it was in the beta. Other classes have skills that increase damage by about the same amount too.

    I like signature-less for wizards too, those skills could use a bit of sexing up. Their intended function of AP regen gets less interesting when things you would use a lot of AP for like spamming blizzard or hydra aren't allowed.

  7. Wow, I guess Magic Weapon is pretty near mandatory then! 20% is pretty huge. I agree about spending AP being tough - most big spells that would seriously chew through AP have cooldowns or restrictions on them. My build probably drops Hydra for Magic Weapon then I suspect. I still like Arcane Barrage with Temporal Flux passive as the spammable nuke but Disintegrate should be good too.

  8. I also don't think it is 20%. Something went wrong with the skill calculator last week. A lot of tooltips were showing patch 14 values and other such problems. I think it's 15%, and while that still seems like a lot, I think there's a lot to keep in perspective.

    My entire build is based around casting disintegrate forever, which I did because I wanted to cast disintegrate forever. If that's what you want to do, then spending a skill slot to make disintegrate do more damage seems like the right thing. On the other hand, you could swap out a skill for Hydra. You have a variety of options for how your Hydra deals damage and how much damage it deals, but say you want AoE so you go with the simple Arcane Hydra that spits orbs.

    I don't know the Hydra's attack speed, but let's say it's the same as your own. Assuming you went for a slow weapon to maximum efficiency of your "spammable" spell, that means the hydra will attack about 15 times, costing about 2.7 arcane power per attack for 33% weapon damage a piece in an area so 12.2% weapon damage per power.

    Disintegrate does 155% for 20 arcane power. That's only 7.75% per power.

    In terms of dps, if you had to choose between doing 20% more with disintegrate or having arcane orbs shoot out once a second for 33% the arcane orbs are actually increasing your damage more - and certainly more if it's only 15%.

    This is very naive math (I'm not going to bother making a spreadsheet until I can actually find out how the abilities work, like how often hydras attack), but I think it's enough to show that it's not an obvious must-have to get a straight 15% damage boost or even 20% for a skill slot.

    But for less direct comparisons, it is not obvious to me that, given two skills slots, I'm surely better off taking disintegrate + 20% damage over, say, disintegrate and ray of frost (maybe snow blast, maybe sleet storm). Is doing 20% more damage with disintegrate all the time better than being able to do a lot more damage to a single target when necessary? With 15% it's even more of a question.

    Magic weapon will probably find it's way into a lot of my builds because I'm that kind of guy, but without spreadsheets and a good knowledge of how fights actually work at high level, it doesn't stand out as overpowered to me (it's no Soul Harvest).