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Dev Watercooler -- Critical Hits (And Misses)
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker)
‘Dev Watercooler’ is a blog series that provides an inside look into the thoughts and discussions happening within the World of Warcraft development team. In our first entry, Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostctrawler" Street laid down a few ground rules:

  • No promises.
  • Don’t read too much between the lines.
  • No whining about the choice of topics we cover.

Critical History Lesson

In the original combat rules of World of Warcraft, melee classes could get 200% crits while casters could only get 150% crits. This was back when all the designers presumably played rogues instead of mages, which according to the forums is what we all play now (which makes our dungeon testing interesting, I gotta tell you.)

Over time, we added talents to allow various casters to get 200% crits as well. Warlocks “could” spend 5 points on the Ruin talent, for example, which you pretty much had to do to be a good warlock. As part of the Cataclysm talent tree evolutions we decided all DPS specs should be able to get 200% crits without investing talent points. There are still some inconsistencies though. Death knights can get 200% crits with both their melee and spell effects, while Assassination rogues get 200% crits with their physical attacks but only 150% crits with their poisons. Healers have always gotten 150% crits, both with their damage-dealing spells and with heals.

The overall design could be described as one that is simple to learn but complex to master. Or put another way, you know most of what you need to know if you’re told that crits do more damage. How much extra damage they do is one of those nuances that more experienced players learn over time and one of the things that makes classes feel different.

Or does it?

You could argue that we’re just keeping old rules that don’t really benefit the game. Is it very interesting that rogue poisons or Enhancement Lightning Bolts don’t have big crits? Does it make you feel different when you pick those classes or specs? Does it feel rewarding when you learn those subtle distinctions? I’d posit perhaps not. Homogenization is something we fight against all the time and one of the primary reasons that we don’t make class A’s ability work just like class B’s ability.

Homogenization -- A Dirty Word

If I can be snarky for a moment, players tend to beat the “homogenization!” drum too emphatically when they are losing something that is overpowered, and like to mock it as “flavor!” when we refuse to give them a cool ability that another class has.

Too much homogenization is a bad thing, no question. But do weird crit rules really fall into that category? There is a difference between being complex (which adds depth) and being complicated (which might just add confusion). We’d rather spend our “complexity points” on things that are really meaningful differences. Pick Assassination because you like daggers or poisons or maybe Rupture, not because you like small crits.

There are balance issues to consider too. Assassination rogues are never going to value crit as much as other characters are as long as some of their crits are smaller. We ran into the same issue with the damage-over-time-based specs when their dots couldn’t crit.

Healers Love Big Numbers Too

It can be an issue for healing as well. In Lich King, critical heals were virtually wasted because much of the time they were going to be overhealing. In Cataclysm, where healer mana matters more and even big heals can’t trivially top someone off, crits are more valuable. But they aren’t valuable enough. Getting 10% haste allows you to get a heal to a target 10% faster. Getting 10% crit allows you to heal a target 5% more. Is it any wonder that crit tends to get devalued for most healers? Resto shaman like it, but look at how many talents they have that make crits better for them. We’re strongly considering just letting all heals crit for double, just like most attacks. We don’t think this would have huge PvE consequences. Healers will heal for a little more, but even if they choose to start stacking crit, they’re going to do that at the expense of Haste, Mastery or Spirit. It could have bigger PvP consequences. Most PvP healers don’t have crit chances beyond say 10% or so, so they aren’t going to crit often.

We’ve been considering whether healing is too strong in PvP anyway. You may have noticed that we made the tooltips for Mortal Strike and equivalent debuffs intentionally vague for 4.1. As I write this, those debuffs are still at 10% healing, but we’re concerned that healing is too hard to counter and we might change that number. Changing it back to 50% would probably lead to the Mortal Strike debuff being mandatory for Arena comps again, but we never got much of a chance to see its effects at say 20%. A 20% Mortal Strike debuff could easily counter any excessive healing caused by 200% crits.

Changes Ahead?a

Letting rogues and Enhancement shaman get 200% crits with non-physical damage would be a larger change, and not the kind of thing we would do mid-expansion. But it’s definitely something we’re considering for the future. That would only leave the damage spells cast by healers at the 150% crit range. We think we could make those full 200% crits as well. If we want to make sure the DPS specs still do a lot more damage, we have the knobs to do that. For example, we could buff passives such as Moonfury (the damage bonus for Balance druids) or Shadow Power (the damage bonus for Shadow priests) to make sure their spells still landed a lot harder than the healing specs did, even if the healers got big crits.

If we made all those changes, then any crit in the game would be at 200%. It would be a very simple rule, and I’d argue any loss of class distinction is more than made up for by the positive balance ramifications. As always with this blog series, this is just speculation. You’re more likely to see 200% healing crits sooner, but even that isn’t something we’ve fully embraced yet. It’s just the kind of thing we discuss when hanging out at the bar... er, I mean watercooler.

Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. He crits on a 19 or 20.
This article was originally published in forum thread: Dev Watercooler -- Critical Hits (And Misses) started by Boubouille View original post
Comments 147 Comments
  1. Rioo's Avatar
    Once again just a bunch of bullshit.

    "This game is broken beyond recognition and we know why, but instead of doing anything we'll wait until the next expansion which won't be out for 2-3 years. But hey, at least we're talking about it".
  1. Gerti's Avatar
    I love how Ghostcrawler mock whiners

    "This was back when all the designers presumably played rogues instead of mages, which according to the forums is what we all play now (which makes our dungeon testing interesting, I gotta tell you.)"
  1. Phaidrae's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Orcheon View Post
    Healers do not like randomness. Crits are random. I would rather every heal heal for 25% more than 25% of heals heal for 100% more.

    This is the same reason procs that don't regenerate mana aren't fun for healers. They add a level to the game that healers don't want, that we don't have any control over--the thing healers want is control.

    This is the exact opposite of what good healers want. We want MORE control, not less.
    Heh, I couldn't agree more on the control part. They need to seriously sit back and re-evaluate how badly they've fucked up healing. Honestly. I love it that (at times) I can put a full set of HoTs on someone (main toon is a healy druid) and then spam Nourish or Healing Touch and essentially watch the tanks health NOT MOVE and watch my mana bar drain like a leaky faucet.

    I enjoy the fact that they made healing a more "on your toes" role...but there are so many instances I've run across where healing is just so ineffective that it's mind-boggling.
  1. Freese's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by vizzle View Post
    These Dev Watercoolers and "Ask the Devs!" stuff are so open-ended and vague that it's obvious they are just doing it to keep the interest of those who don't really already know this in the first place. They don't say anything ground breaking and they don't share anything new that a decent player could think of himself. They try to show their knowledge of the game by mentioning that they know where Boomkins and SPriests get their passive damage from, but aside from that, there was nothing worthwhile reading in this post. Waste of time, just trying to make it seem like the developers haven't abandoned this game, which, the A team has.
    No. Maybe it doesn't pertain to YOU per se, but it does concern other people who play the game.
  1. vizzle's Avatar
    If they spent as much time actually implementing changes and experimenting with numbers as they do jacking off at the watercooler we'd have an amazing game again.
  1. Rennadrel's Avatar
    Ghostcrawler is an idiot. Class homogenization has been the design method since Wrath came out, and it's now to the point where classes are so close to being similar the only difference is ability names and one or two spells that other classes have. This is especially true for melee classes, feral druids and rogues have always used the same resource systems and similar styles of combat techniques, in fact there isn't much that really separates rogues from cat druids aside from a couple of abilities, and more of the fact that feral druids can shape shift and cast healing spells. Plate classes are worse though, Retribution is basically a lousy cop out to what the original design of Retribution was in Burning Crusade and again a redesign in Wrath, personally I feels more unique now, it's still requires far too much micro managing and while I don't think it should be a complete face roll spec, other classes should get the same treatment otherwise change Ret back to the way it was in 3.0. Most classes don't really have anything unique about them and most can gear in a similar way, unlike in Burning Crusade when Protection Paladins used spell power swords to tank and intellect was used by both Enhance Shamans and Retribution Paladins :P
  1. Schizoide's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by underdogba View Post
    I am not saying that GC's blogs are bad because they are not a litany of specific class changes a la class notes. It's because everything he writes is completely predictable, devoid of any controversy whatsoever, and essentially meaningless as far as advancing our understanding of where they want the game to go. The whole thing reeks of consulting a publicist, under the auspices of a blog.
    Really? I had no idea they were considering setting healing crits to 200% or increasing the mortal strike debuff in 4.1. How did you know about that stuff?
  1. loop not defined's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Rioo View Post
    This game is broken beyond recognition...
    This comment is an example of why I tend to avoid WoW forums these days. Rampant lack of perspective, although I think the word "lack" is a huge understatement.

    ---------- Post added 2011-04-19 at 10:53 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by vizzle View Post
    If they spent as much time actually implementing changes and experimenting with numbers as they do jacking off at the watercooler we'd have an amazing game again.
    Because player opinions shouldn't ever be factored into game design, right? The Dev Watercooler blogs are more about getting people focused on topics Blizzard wants input on.
  1. Freese's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Rioo View Post
    Once again just a bunch of bullshit.

    "This game is broken beyond recognition and we know why, but instead of doing anything we'll wait until the next expansion which won't be out for 2-3 years. But hey, at least we're talking about it".
    Add this to another list of statements I've heard over the past six years now. Moving along....
  1. Dacomp89's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by underdogba View Post
    Three quick points --

    1. You don't know anything about how I think about anything, so as far as I'm concerned, this is just troll bait.

    2. The fact that you keep insisting that I'm "concerned with superficial changes" means that you have essentially zero comprehension of the criticism I'm making.

    3. "If you don't like it, ignore it" is a patently-misused conversation-destroyer misused in the context in which you're using it. This is a valid argument when it comes to censorship by an institution of political power. But to claim as you are that readers/watchers of a piece of media have no right to criticize it is patently absurd.
    I can derive from your posts how you think, that is the essence of how a discussion works. What you say is based on what you think, unless of course you are simply trolling? Am I the one falling for troll bait? This is my first post on this topic so I don't know what you're talking about. You might want to read his point #3, "No whining about the choice of topics we cover." Just because you don't find his posts interesting doesn't mean no one else will, or are you so arrogant as to think that? Pray tell, what issue would you like him to cover? And would you be satisfied with just his thoughts on the matter, which he clearly states is as far as his blog will go, or would you demand to see him provide concrete changes with a timeline on when they will be implemented into the game? You clearly desire more than he is willing to provide and he has no obligation to provide inside details on WoW development, as clearly individuals less wise than yourself would greatly misconstrue them as facts and promises. With your great insight surely you can understand the predicament he is in? And yet you demand more. Of course you are free to do so, I hope you have fun in your exercise in futility.
  1. Sarevokcz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Schizoide View Post
    This is the dev watercooler. It's supposed to give players a window on what the devs are talking about this week, not <<nerfs/buffs to your class>>.

    I've been enjoying these watercoolers and blog posts a great deal. They're a huge improvement over the total lack of communication we had before.
    Yeah, well, when all I get from these posts is usual "We completely overlooked this issue in in beta and before 4.0.6, but it was totally intentional!" Are they trying to tell me that enha shaman is supposed to scale that bad with 2 out of 3 noncap secondary stats?

    It's the same as the 10vs25 blog...
  1. Azrile's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Dacomp89 View Post
    You find what he talks about meaningless because you do not think about the game as deeply as he does. You are concerned with superficial changes, he is concerned with how the whole game interacts in itself. If you do not think his watercooler blog is useful then ignore it, he doesn't do it for you, he does it to provide some insight into how a game is run and developed.
    If poisons crit for 200% damage and mutilate gets nerfed by 10%..... is the game more fun?
    If enchance get 200% crit LBs and stormstrike is nerfed by 10%.... is the game more fun?

    The fact is, 5 minutes after they make these changes, nothing really matters. They will then have to spend a month trying to rebalance everything to deal with the increased damage of these new 200% crits. But in the end, is the game more fun?

    They spend far to much time talking and thinking about these ´deep´issues and are not adding enough FUN things to the game. These issues are not ´deep, they are negligible issues.

    I think GC is too caught up in spreadsheets and needs to step back like the original designers and constantly ask ´does this make the game more fun?´ 200% crit poisons and 10% nerf to mutilate does not make the game more fun, no matter how ´deep´it s.
  1. Amerika's Avatar
    Why are they considering buffing MS? That's just stupid. If they want to buff MS to help counter healing that means every comp would need MS again or else they would be relegated to a weaker status than they are now. Not to mention some of the strongest classes right now are warriors, hunters and rogues...all with MS.

    The odd thing is I don't think healing is that OP. I play RBG's and arena at high ratings and people die quickly in 3's and 5's and it really doesn't take that long to kill a flag carrier in RBG's despite almost every team running 4 healers (3 of them on D with the FC + a dps, rest on O typically but not always). Sometimes we have to wait for one stack of the vulnerability debuff on the FC if they are running a heavy D but that doesn't take very long to get up.

    Sometimes I don't think Blizzard plays the same game we do. And if they think buffing MS is going to fix a non-existent problem then I really don't think they are paying much attention.
  1. Cacodaemon's Avatar
    One suggestion that might bear some weight; have crits for your main role at 200%, and other crits at 150%. For example, an Elemental Shaman would toss offensive spells with 200% crit effect, but healing at 150% crit effect. For a Restoration Shaman, those would reverse; healing would have a 200% crit effect, and damage spells would have 150% crit effect.

    Essentially, DPS abilities would crit at 200% for DPS-focused specs. Healing abilities would crit at 200% for healing-focused specs. A healer's DPS abilities would crit at 150%, and a DPSer's healing abilities would crit at 150%.

    This sort of change would reinforce distinction of roles, but remove some (seemingly) unnecessary artifacts of the original design.
  1. Schizoide's Avatar
    They aren't negligible, they're concrete design concerns. The end effect on experienced players is minimal, you're right about that, but setting all crits to 200% makes the game easier to balance, gear easier to itemize, and gameplay more intuitive and thus newbie-friendly.

    Not every change is buff/nerf <<your class here>> or content changes. Deeper mechanics changes matter, and some of us find that sort of thing interesting. If you don't, that's fine.
  1. Snes's Avatar
    People seem to be on either extreme here:
    -Total Blizzard fanboys, tirelessly devoted to defending and praising each and every change Blizzard makes, including reversions. Usually any form of negative criticism towards Blizzard sets them off on a self-righteous tyrade.
    -Nonsensical flamers that moan about every potential change, especially when it comes to cosmetic items.

    OT; the fact that he tries to convince us that the game isn't becoming homogenized is utterly ridiculous. Oh well, all empires fall eventually, let's hope WoW's dev team become less arrogant and learn from their decisions when it does.
  1. Asatru's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Gerti View Post
    I love how Ghostcrawler mock whiners

    "This was back when all the designers presumably played rogues instead of mages, which according to the forums is what we all play now (which makes our dungeon testing interesting, I gotta tell you.)"
    But that's no denial!!!
  1. Tinykong's Avatar
    More pvp balancing that is detracting from the real issue plaguing the game (lack of content and "quality of life issues.")

    When is Blizzard going to just realize that it's time to make PVP and PVE two completely separate game styles, with different gear and talent trees? As it stands, competitive PVP is all about finding whatever the current spec, item, ability, class or gear that can be used to create some sort of competitive advantage, and exploiting it. Blizzard constantly spends huge amounts of times designing, and redesigning, and retuning the game to work around these "exploits." DPS is too high, let's bump resilience. Now healing is too easy, let's nerf that. Now mortal strike is too effective, let's nerf that. Warrior charge is too powerful, buff escapes. Too many escapes, buff Rogue stuns.

    Meanwhile, PVE players are having to endure the constant pendulum swing of class balancing for raiding and grouping. The only way it's going to end is to make the two gameplay choices distinctly separate. And the argument about people being confused is moot: if you want to be competitive in PVP, you can't just roll into an arena as a fresh 85 with quest greens and blues and expect to get a high rating. You have to research your class composition, create/grind a pvp gear set from crafted/BGs, and learn the ins and outs of all the specs in the game and how to counter them. With all that much research and prep going into it already, what's one more talent tree per class?

    Every class can dps, only some can heal. With only one "pvp" spec per class, healing/dmg could be tightly controlled through mechanics that would have absolutely no effect on any other facet of the game. That spec would only be viable in a pvp setting, introduce it as the "third" spec that everyone is clamoring for, and be done with it. When you zone into an arena or BG, that spec is activated by default, and since there is already a break between pve/pvp gear (resilience) you could make it non-viable to wear pve gear to pvp and pvp gear to pve. Don't like raiders having access to PVP weapons? Resilience reduces your main stat by 10% in your PVE spec. Same goes for PVE gear in PVP situations, each item slot that isn't PVP itemized reduces your dmg/healing output in PVP spec by some percentage.
  1. Druid Duw's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by subanark View Post
    Nooo... having heals be 200% just makes things even more unpredictable than it already is. Healers can't make up a run of bad streak of non-crits in a fight like a dps can. If you get unlucky with crits and the tank dies, then you get to do the encounter over again. If this happens to the dps, then there is still a good chance they can make up lost ground.
    Although the thought of more healing for your mana is nice I have to agree with you on the grounds thats its unpredictable and can also lead to over healing making it a lottery.
  1. Chaoslux's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Rioo View Post
    Once again just a bunch of bullshit.

    "This game is broken beyond recognition and we know why, but instead of doing anything we'll wait until the next expansion which won't be out for 2-3 years. But hey, at least we're talking about it".
    Dev WaterCooler GROUND RULES:

    2) Don’t read too much between the lines. I’m going to point out a lot of design flaws in our game. “Oh no! Goatcaller admitted WoW was deeply flawed! It’s shark-jumping time!” Look, Blizzard is very critical about our own designs. There is virtually nothing in World of Warcraft that could not be improved. That has always been the case and will continue to be the case. Just because I’m going to be sharing that more frankly with you doesn’t mean that the game now has more cracks in its foundation than it ever did. There is an old saying (misattributed, from what I understand, to Otto Bismarck) that laws are like sausages; it is best not seeing them being made. My old friend and mentor Bruce Shelley used to apply the same maxim to game design.

    "Omg the game is broken" is EXACTLY what the Dev Watercoolers are about. Its to tell us they KNOW about the issues and casually try to discuss what they talked about in their last meeting. YOU have to realize changes dont happen overnight.

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