EVE Online Players Work For The CIA! Plus Love for PvP and more

Glenn Beck, I thank you. Best. Headline. Evar.

Yes, it would appear that EVE has hit the political wires. Plus, a great argument in favour of World PvP, and more:

  • The Grumpy Elf delivers a surprisingly rousing recommendation for all of us to try some world PvP in WoW“Player vs player however is the exact opposite. It encourages the MMO aspect of the game. You see a group of people being attacked, you join in. You are getting attacked, people you never met come to help you. “
  • Scott Jennings brings us the news that – seriously – a major US television personality is claiming that EVE Online corp Goonswarm is a codeword for the CIA“Glenn Beck figures out the real story behind Sean Smith’s death: Goonswarm Is Literally The CIA.”
  • Spinks highlights a potential upcoming problem with MoP’s loot system – a severe lack of PUG tanks and healers“This new system means it would be pretty suboptimal of me to offer to tank instances while I’m trying to use them to gear up for raids; I would only get tanking drops.”
  • Rohan argues that WoW should never lose its combat res mechanics“Combat resses are a “catch-up mechanic”. These mechanics allow players to recover from a mistake and keep going. Without these mechanics, game outcomes have the potential to be unchangeable.”
  • And Jef Reahard gives us a really interesting look at Funcom’s history as he argues we shouldn’t worry about The Secret World closing“You know the rest of the story, though. The game continues to this day. It’s slated for a graphical overhaul, and while it’s not setting any population records, it’s beloved by many, and more importantly, it’s turning a profit for its parent company nearly 12 years after its maiden voyage.”

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For WoW Tanks, It’s Time To Take Our Pants Off Again

OK, fellow tanks, it looks like it’s time to get our Magic Mike on again. Yep, along with Pandas and Pet Battles, Blizzard’s bringing back the tearaway pants for WoW tanks.

I’m sure many of you are giving this the full-on “WTH?” moment. Allow me to explain.

You might think that for a WoW tank, more armour is better. But that’s just not the case. As Blizzard have struggled to balance tank DPS to be useful but not overpowered, WoW tanks have gone through various phases where we could tank best by reducing our armour, taking more damage, and doing more damage and threat as a result. Traditionally, we’d achieve this by taking off items of clothing. And what single item has the most armour?

Pants.

We thought this problem had gone away thanks to the introduction of Vengeance, and Blizzard’s subsequent attempts to improve it. But, as Theck demonstrates today, that’s not the case. In fact, MoP features yet another attempt to fix Vengeance, and as a result looks set to see the return of the pantless tank in a big way – and that’s not the only wierd effect the new Vengeance mechanic will have

“Tank DPS is also going to vary significantly across content in this system. Our output will fluctuate wildly with encounter mechanics, specifically bosses with large variances in time-off-target. Or for that matter, sections of an encounter where one tank is taking most of the damage, leaving the off-tank doing very little. And there will be a huge variation in damage not just between 10-man and 25-man versions of content, but between normal and heroic versions of that content. I can see that being a huge balancing nightmare on several fronts – a retribution paladin does similar damage whether you set the boss to normal or heroic mode, but your tank’s damage may vary by up to a factor of 2.

I also don’t see the point in having a significant difference in tank DPS between 10- and 25-man versions of content. Tank damage may be a smaller proportion of raid DPS in the 25-man format, but it’s no less important. For bosses with reasonably-tuned enrage timers (i.e., almost every meaningful heroic mode), tanks were already doing what they could to optimize damage. It really doesn’t need to be normalized to keep the players happy, and I doubt it’s a significant hurdle in balancing the encounters given the array of other, more noticeable differences between the formats.

Another side-effect of our DPS being dependent on boss DPS is that it opens up some really bizarre situations for our rotation. Our abilities don’t scale equally with AP, and as a result our optimum rotation changes based on whether we’re at 0% or 100% Vengeance. Amplifying this effect and making it vary per encounter is even worse, because it means that our ideal rotation can now change from boss to boss.

Now, you might say, “But wait Theck, DPS specs change their rotation from boss to boss too.” And you’d be right, but only in the trivial sense. They may perform different actions for different numbers of targets, or bosses with strange special abilities. But they don’t change anything when going from Patchwerk #1 to Patchwerk #2, which is their basic “nuke a single target” rotation, the bread-and-butter of their class. But with “new Vengeance,” a tank’s ideal rotation could be different depending on which boss they’re facing, what phase it is, and whether they’re the main- or off-tank.”

Theck’s talking about Paladin tanks, his speciality, but as far as I know the changes to Vengeance will mess with all tanks equally. And Theck takes us on a fascinating journey through all the potential ramifications in this post – not just pantless tanks and wierd DPS rotations, but BiS tanks being out-DPSed by alts in greens and more.

Even if you don’t care about WoW or tanking, this is a fascinating read from a game development perspective – some well-intentioned and reasonably well-thought-out changes turn out to have really, really unexpected emergent consequences. And if you are interested in WoW tanking, I’d say this one’s a must-read – if only so that you can start collecting your DPS set and preparing the appropriate emotes for when you suddenly have to whip off your outerwear…

Bow-tie optional.

So, will you be joining the Pantless Tanking Craze?

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Why Ghostcrawler’s MoP Block Math is Dead, Dead Wrong

Ghostcrawler and his crew are back in World of Warcraft, and they’re making changes again. Not content with the epic changes to the talent system , GC has also announced that there will be huge changes to the basic stats in the game, right down to the level of changing how combat works altogether. (Blessing of Kings has an excellent summary and general critique of the announced changes ).

In amongst the changes is a supposed “fix” for the problems that Block has caused this expansion – block capping and more. From now on, combat will resolve in a two-roll system – one roll for avoidance, and one for block. It sounds simple, it sounds complete, GC’s clearly very pleased with it –

And it’s going to cause any number of problems.

Today Theck, known throughout theorycrafting land as “The Bringer of Numbers and Pounding Headaches”, sits down at his Scary Maths Desk at Sacred Duty to explain just why Ghostcrawler’s solution is, in fact, a bad idea, and one that will have some seriously non-obvious implications for tanking

“In the (true) one-roll system, block and avoidance are completely independent – gaining 10% avoidance doesn’t change how much block you have (provided you aren’t capped). But the two-roll system inherently couples avoidance and block (or more accurately, couples block to avoidance – it’s a one-way street, in that avoidance affects block but block doesn’t affect avoidance). The two-roll system introduces an interdependence that leads to some really unintuitive behavior. When you increase your avoidance, you are effectively reducing your mastery-to-block conversion factor. If it’s 1 mastery = 1.4% block at 30% avoidance, it drops to 1 mastery = 1.2% block at 40% avoidance.

So the statement that that “block gives a consistent value, independent of avoidance” is clearly false using this metric, because increasing your avoidance reduces the effectiveness of every point of mastery you have.”

This post is long, it’s detailed, and I advise you to put your thinking cap on and caffinate up before reading, because it’s got maths in it. And we’re not talking the usual levels of simple theorycraft here – Theck’s bringing the calculus, and he’s bringing it hard.

But having said all that, even if scary formulae bring you out in a rash, Theck explains his central points clearly and well. It would appear that Ghostcrawler may be making the classic system designer mistake of underestimating the complexity of moving from a single to a multi-dice-roll system. He’s also failing to learn from his competition, as SWTOR is already struggling with a similar system and its consequences for non-obvious stat priorities.

I have to say, even before Theck brought the brains to the discussion, the idea of a multi-roll combat system was making me twitch a bit. But chances are, what GC says is going to become law, whether we like it or not. So, if you’re going to be playing a tank in Mists of Pandaria, this post is probably a must-read, to start understanding the additional complexity that is coming down the mountain with the Pandas.

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Where did all the cool two-tank fights go in Dragon Soul?

It seems that as Blizzard continue to dream up new ways to vary boss mechanics and gameplay in raids, they’re starting to push ideas which cause problems for a lot of raiders.

We already heard about the effects on healers of fights which require raid groups to suddenly dramatically change their tank/healer/DPS composition. Now, on Sacred Duty, Theck is talking about the creeping prevalence of the one-tank fight – something we’ve already seen a fair bit of in the Firelands (Baleroc for many guilds and Majordomo Staghelm), and it appears we’re going to see more of in Dragon Soul.

Theck talks about the ramifications of and problems with suddenly benching one tank or forcing them to switch to offspec, and then goes into a fascinating discussion of the mechanics Blizzard can use to require a second tank on the team

“Keep in mind that the goal is to shoehorn a second tank into what is otherwise designed as a one-tank fight. By definition, that’s going to feel a little “tacked-on.” The problem with the “taunt off the debuff” solution is that it feels so blatantly “tacked-on” that it ends up looking like the lazy dev’s solution. What’s needed is to add a mechanic that requires a second tank, but do it in a way that doesn’t feel tacked-on, despite the fact that it is. It has to feel like a job that’s interesting, important, and worthy of a second tank.

For example, what about a the fight where an add spawns every 30 seconds and has to be off-tanked until it expires? Maybe the add has 3x the boss’s hit points, so you can’t possibly hope to kill it. You just have to tank it so it doesn’t run amok in the raid killing healers indiscriminately. For a heroic version, the adds could spawn faster than they expire, leading to a natural enrage timer when your off-tank gets overwhelmed.

Or a fight where you throw a version of Alysrazor’s hatchlings at the raid, but tweaked so that the hatchling is immune to all damage sources except the person being focused? There doesn’t even need to be a damage buff, so long as the hit points are balanced appropriately. That sort of design has an additional advantage, in that it gives the tank an incentive to perform his damage rotation well – something we sadly need in the absence of an active mitigation model – so that he doesn’t end up having to tank multiples at once. If you want tanks to care about balancing hit/expertise with defensive stats, this is one way to do it. It’s an encounter-based way to turn your threat rotation into a survivability benefit!”

I’m particularly impressed with Theck’s analysis of the problem and its solutions here – I was aware of the common ways to occupy a second tank, of course, but he very neatly summarises every approach we’ve seen, and then analyses each, their strengths and weaknesses, and why they work.

His new solutions all sound remarkably good, too. Frankly, I’d like to see a fight with any and all of these mechanics. It seems to me that not only is the problem now to occupy a second tank, but also, as Theck mentions above, to find something interesting for a tank to do in a world where threat is now trivial. Or are we, as some people have suggested, headed for a world where rather than one-tank fights, we’ll eventually end up with no tanks?

*What do you think? Are you worried about benching your tanks for Dragon Soul?

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New Site Spotlight: Maps For Tanks

Every so often, I come across an entire site whose concept I just love. Recently it was the awesome Warcraft Confessions , and today it’s the brand new and rather fantastic Maps For Tanks .

Who/What/Why? Maps For Tanks is an ongoing instance guide for, yes, tanks. They offer short strategies for each boss, rather similar to our own instance Quick Read tactics guides , although in this case their guides are purely for tank players. And they also offer annotated – well, more scribbled upon – map guids through the instance.

Here’s an example:

(Example taken from Ragefire Chasm on Maps For Tanks .)

It’s really neat. It’s really friendly (particularly taken with the helpful little cartoon characters at the bottom of every post). And overall, if I was levelling a tank through WoW, I’d want this guide open at all times.

Check it out!

Map taken directly from http://mapsfortanks.com/2011/09/23/ragefire-chasm/ .

_Find Maps For Tanks at http://mapsfortanks.com/

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Let’s keep the tanks, the healers, and the DPS!

There’s been a bit of a revisionist movement of late in the MMOSphere, with various people – very nearly including Blizzard – suggesting that the Holy Trinity of tanks, healers, and DPS should be revised or removed, that it’s passed its sell-by date, and that it’s hindering our gameplay.

It’s a popular suggestion – so popular, in fact, that I haven’t really heard any dissenting voices, until today, as Gazimoff eloquently speaks up in favour of the Trinity :

“This proposal cropped up recently on WoW Insider, where pure DPS classes would have some of their abilities replaced to become tank/DPS or healer/DPS hybrids, or even all three. This would mean that everyone would be able to perform at least two out of three in the trifecta.

I don’t like this.

If you play a class that can heal you get pressured into healing. If you play a class that can tank you get pressured into tanking. If you can do both then you get pulled all sorts of ways and spend your days keeping everyone but yourself happy. All this peer pressure is a bit crap considering that I want to play the role I enjoy, and that role is nuking the crap out of a monster and seeing big yellow numbers.”

Gazimoff makes several very interesting points within this short article, from his personal views on the role he wants to play to his suggestion at the end that the entire flap might well result from a misattribution of the entire problem. It’s an interesting thought – after all, the lack-of-tanks issue has always primarily been centered around PUG groups. Is it, perhaps, not that people don’t want the responsibility of tanking, but that they don’t want the responsibility of tanking for people they don’t like?

Are you a Holy Trinity abolitionist, or do you think they’re fine? And does the problem lie elsewhere?

Quote taken directly from Gazimoff’s article .

Find Gazimoff’s blog, Mana Obscura, at http://www.manaobscura.com/ .

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Tanks for the memories, threat – the Threat Change, Part 2

If you missed the thrilling first installment – cue “under a rock” joke – the summary is as follows:

1) Ghostcrawler suddenly announces that Blizzard are effectively removing threat as a mechanic.

2) A massive threat buff for all tanks is hotfixed in the same day.

3) People had interesting, well-thought-out opinions. (A lot of other people had less well-thought-out opinions too, but we didn’t feature those).

And this one’s just kept on rolling in a manner that I haven’t seen since – well, OK, since Blizzard’s last major announcement about 3 weeks ago. Nonetheless, the “Threat gone – what now?” discussion has kept rolling these past few days. Here’s the next installment!

Several people have stood up and given their reasons why they don’t like the change:

  • Lono of Screaming Monkeys feels that tanking has been gutted: “Being able to juggle threat and survivability while fighting a 10 meters high ogre despite the stupidity of my fellow pug members is something I take a lot of pride in. This is what I love about tanking, the challenge, having to do it all at once, knowing that if I mess up its the entire raid that falls and succeeding despite that.”
  • Klepsacovic of Troll Racials are Overpowered simply prefers threat to survival: “I much prefer threat management. Nail a rotation. Keep track of all the mobs. Know where they will come from and where they might go. For me, that is playing. It isn’t decision-making, at least not on a high level, but a learned activity, something that is not perfectly identical every time, but of a known theme. “

Meanwhile, other bloggers are eloquently defending the changes:

  • Big Bear Butt thinks that tanking has totally changed over the years: “It used to be that the bread and butter, meat and potatoes pull (it’s lunch time, I’m hungry) was the tank runs in and hits the mob, the DPS burns it down. There would be minor variations on that theme, a few extra adds maybe, a healer or ranged spellcaster that wouldn’t come along for the ride, but that was pretty much it. These days, just as GC points out, the design has changed.”
  • Zinn at Jinxed Thoughts feels that this change stops tanks’ job being taken from them: “If I join a group and everyone in the group has aggro but me, for any reason, it makes me rather obsolete. Imagine if you somehow could keep the healer from healing or the dpsers from dpsing?”

And finally, Andrew at Eye of the Storm has been testing the tank changes out in practise: “Previously I felt like Tanking was like herding cats. You had little to no ability to control where the mobs were going, and your own team’s dysfunction was a major driver in the frustration.This change has made the threat issues on packs much better, and the threat issues I saw in single target basically resolved.”

Have you tried out the tank changes? Do you think they’re a major alteration for the better or the worse?

All quotes taken directly from their respective articles

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No threat, tanks, we’re …

If you heard a massive screeching sound last night, that was the sound of the WoW juggernaut being forced into another incredibly sharp turn, threatening to topple over, with Ghostcrawler leaning on the wheel shouting “Stay on target! Stay on target!”. Or something similar.

Yep, it’s been announced that threat is effectively being phased out as a mechanic in WoW. In a completely unprecedented move, Blizzard have announced this was happening, then promptly hotfixed it into the servers – so as of now, tank threat has approximately doubled.

The blogosphere, needless to say, had some reactions:

  • Cynwise has three “crackpot theories” – which aren’t that crackpot at all – as to why this change came as a sudden hotfix: “Blizzard’s PR department keeps tabs on the industry, and there was an EA press conference today. Some pretty substantial stuff got announced – more SW:TOR demos, ME3 trailers, a new MMO, FIFA 2012, lots of stuff. Blizzard had two things in the can to keep WoW players focused on WoW today – RealID cross-server grouping to remain free, and massive tanking changes. Guess what the WoW community is talking about today?”

  • Tobold thinks this is a case of distributing responsibility more evenly: “If a large enough number of players would have actually liked to shoulder a higher responsibility, they had 7 years to express that by taking on one of the roles that tended to get all the blame in a group, tank or healer.”

  • Looking for More is unequivocally in favour of the changes: “Look, any hardcore raid tank can tell you the real measure of a tank is doing the fight mechanics and using their mitigation right. Threat is BASIC. Nerfing threat does not nerf the really hard parts of tanking.”

  • Spinks is somewhat confused at some of the statements Ghostcrawler has made: “several of the ranged dps classes have aggro dumps, as well as two of the melee. If it’s bad for one class to have to use that ability, why is it OK for the others?”

  • And Azeroth Hit Me has some ideas for how tanks could work now threat is no longer an issue: “Instead of just moving the boss/adds out of bad, perhaps there is a bonus for moving them into certain zones, like air strike targets, or runes they have to be moved onto in a certain order, but the runes position are random and change each battle.”

What do you think? Do you love the changes? Do you think there are Cunning Reasons behind the hotfix? Or are you one of the (very rare, as far as I can tell) people who aren’t so thrilled?

All quotes taken directly from their respective posts.

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All Of T3h: Opinions on the “Call To Arms”

Oh, my word. Blizzard announces they’re going to bribe tanks to please, please, please queue solo in the LFD Tool (as a friend of mine commented the other day, the “D” is silent), and the blogosphere explodes in a way I’ve not seen since the last time Blizz really screwed up – erm, I mean, since the Real ID flap.

I’ve just spent the last 45 minutes reading all the reactions that have flooded out of the WoWosphere (not to mention the 364 and counting comments on WoW Insider). That’s a lot of writing about one patch note. So, if you’ve been hiding under a rock and missed all this (or quit WoW to play Rift, but want to come back and laugh at us), here’s our pick of the reaction posts:

  • Blessing Of Kings has an excellent post discussing the WoW approach to tanks vs the Age of Conan approach. Why do we have to have one overstressed tank and three bored DPS in a group? Why not have two of each? Really nice thinking outside the box, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.
  • Psynister at his very own Notebook has an excellent and lengthy overview of things from a DPS perspective, and an analysis that I’ve not seen anywhere else – that actually, Blizzard should be rewarding the DPS, not the tanks. You may agree, you may not, but it’s a very interesting perspective.

    • Kadomi at Tank Like A Girl thinks it’s a Call To Fail. Don’t mince words, Kadomi, tell us what you really think! But she does, with a number of excellent points, including the minor issue that actually, these rewards aren’t enough to compensate for being forced to queue solo.
    • Thisius at Dots and Locks hits the nail on the head when he says that the real problem with LFD isn’t lack of rewards for tanks: it’s you and me. Or at least, it’s the DPS who pull for a tank, who rush them, abuse them, and so on. And Call to Arms won’t fix that.
    • The worst offenders in LFD are the pushy assholes who are just there for the rewards. By attempting to incentivise tanks with rewards, you’re just going to get more pushy assholes – so says Saniel of Primal Precision in just one of the many good points he makes about Call to Arms.
    We’ll be keeping on top of this story as it develops (said he in his best TV reporter voice), and I’ll be writing a bit about my own thoughts on the subject. So far, the most interesting point is that I’ve not seen a single post praising this idea.

What do you think? Solution from the heavens or Blizzard screwing the pooch?

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