Thursday, December 1, 2016

Getting the numbers right

Blizzard is doing a bunch of talent tuning in the next patch for WOW, 7.1.5.  I have been looking at the ret paladin changes and so far I am impressed with them.  There were some real problems with ret paladin choices up to this point but Blizzard seems intent on fixing them.

The obvious example of this is the first talent tier.  Currently the choices are

1.  Final Verdict:  20% bonus to my best single target attack, and 10% bonus to my best AOE attack.

2.  Execution Sentence:  A new single target attack that has a cooldown but does a lot of damage.

3.  Consecration:  A new AOE attack that has a cooldown but does a small amount of damage.

The problem with these talents was not the theme or base design, since they are completely fine that way.  The problem was the numbers.  It was almost as though the designers forgot that adding in new spells comes at a huge cost.  If I want to cast a new spell I have to make room for it in my rotation, and that means losing out on damage on my other spells.

Both Execution Sentence and Consecration were fine spells to have, but if you actually looked carefully at what you would have to skip casting to get them in they suddenly looked really terrible.  ES does 350k on a 20 second cooldown, but you have to skip a 275k attack to cast it.  Consecration does 100k on a 10 second cooldown, but you have to skip a 70k attack to cast it.  Final Verdict though, it just does 55k every five seconds no matter what.  All the talents have similar damage benefits, but the two that grant new spells have a punishing cost that doesn't seem to be accounted for at all.

It wasn't like there was a choice.  Both of the new spells simply weren't good enough to ever make the cut.  If you managed to sneak them in without any cost at all they would have been fantastic, but since my rotation is already really full that is just a pipe dream.

The telling point is this:  There was *no* situation in which Execution Sentence or Consecration was right.  None.  It is completely fine to have niche talents, but when you can't come up with a situation in which you would take a talent it needs to be changed.

Blizzard noticed that nobody was ever taking Execution Sentence and Consecration and changed them.  Execution Sentence is getting a 55% buff and Consecration is getting a 100% buff in the upcoming patch, and now we have a real choice!  Raiders tend to focus almost exclusively on single target damage and for those people Execution Sentence will be the superior choice.  Only by a small amount, but it will be the best.  Consecration will be the best for heavy AOE.  Both will be usable outside their niche, but won't be great.  Final Verdict will straddle the two, being second place in pretty much all situations but having the benefit of not needing to think about an additional spell.

That last point is real.  Simpler rotations and less thinking about cooldowns, areas, etc. makes you play better.  It gives you more brain cycles to work with for the rest of the game.  Anyone struggling with information overload will be well advised to take the passive talent, and that is fine.  It is no problem to have passive talents that players can take if they don't want to think as much.  The goal is to have real choices that change based on circumstance, and Blizzard has achieved this with the current build.

That isn't to say the patch is perfect now.  There are still issues, mostly with my level 100 talent row that has one automatic choice, one inferior choice, and one joke.  However, Blizzard is clearly moving in the right direction and making good choices so I have real hope that they will get things sorted out by the time the patch launches.

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