Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reading Between the Lines of the New Producer's Letter

The new Producer's Letter for WAR is out. I took a few days to let things sink in before writing about it to try to figure out some of the hidden meanings in the letter.

Please note that these are simply my predictions based on information Mythic has released publicly. If you have any concerns with anything I say, please do not complain to Mythic about it. You can direct all complaints about these predictions to their source, namely my ass.

With that out of the way, I'll break it down after the break

This month’s Producer Letter is being brought to you by James Casey. James has been a Producer on the project for some time and has run a number of WAR initiatives (New User Journey, Endless Trial, Verminous Horde, etc.) in tandem with Carrie. Carrie is still working on WAR, but is looking at a different aspect of the game. This new focus will be revealed in due time.
The first part I bolded is about new content that was added to the game recently. Carrie is now working on a different aspect of the game. What other parts of the game are there than content development? Well, there's customer service, server and code management, and financial management to name a few. The big question that jumps to mind is could WAR being going free-to-play? Carrie has stated in Q&A sessions before that they'd like to learn things from the free-to-play model.

The issue with WAR going F2P is how to make money selling stuff in a cash shop without grossly imbalancing combat. If that can be solved, then sure, why not? The game is only fun with other players to play with...or kill. F2P would bring a LOT more players into the game. More players makes the game more fun for everyone.
The current structure of the Scenarios will remain unchanged, but the Scenarios themselves will be different. Some scenarios stayed where they are, some changed what tiers they are available at, and some are gone and replaced by other classic scenarios. For example; The Maw of Madness will be making its return to the Tier 4 scenario Queue.
I liked Maw of Madness, so I welcome that change. Classic scenarios seem to suggest no brand new scenarios. I have to figure Nordenwatch and Reikland Factory are staying in Tier 4. I figure the 3 6v6 scenarios will be added to Tiers 2 and 3 to help with queue times. Those are Gates of Ekrund (a 6v6 bracket existed for ranks 19-24), The Ironclad, and the Eternal Citadel. Lost Temple of Isha has to be getting the boot for sure since approximately zero people take the queue for it. I'm going to say that the other 3 Tier 4 scenarios will be Black Fire Basin, Battle for Praag, and Serpent's Passage. I would love for Ironclad or Eternal Citadel to be in Tier 4, but I doubt that will happen.
We also have some very special plans for Grovod Caverns.
Grovod Caverns is a capture the flag scenario. The flags in this case are Warpstone. This screams Skaven scenario to me and would be quite ingenious if I'm right. Players complain about the power gap, a lot. Skaven have the same stats regardless of the rank/renown rank and gear of the controlling player. Also players complain about lack of group balance in scenarios. Allowing players to choose which Skaven to play in the scenario avoids the issue completely. Andy did mention wanting to improve the group support ability of the Packmaster. Could this be why?
Along with the patches and live events, we also have plans to expand our services and Account Entitlement offerings this year. This includes introducing paid name changes, more pets, and more ways to personalize your character.
More support for the F2P argument perhaps?
However, we understand that population is a key component to enjoying the game. As part of an effort to ensure off-peak hours are as enjoyable as peak hours can be, we are actively discussing our plans for lower population servers.
Free server transfers have already been mentioned, but this could be even more support to the F2P argument. Or it could be something else.

That's all I've got for the Producer's Letter. The TTK calculations I've been doing just got a wrench thrown into them with the healing changes being discussed. I get the feeling more is coming that will cause me to have to redo them completely. I'm going to hold off on that for now to see what's coming before I go further on that series.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Elite Mindset - I'd Rather It Be My Fault

So this is bothering me right now after reading some recent posts on the official forums and seeing some videos on YouTube.

First, the YouTube video. Get a load of this.

Does anyone else see the problems here? This guy is shooting a video of him in a scenario getting rolled complaining about premades vs pugs hoping to use it as evidence.

Here's what I have.

1. Clicking all his abilities. Really? You can't move effectively and still get off abilities if you do that. You get away with that in Tier 1, but in Tier 4 it's asking to get rolled.
2. Keyboard turning. It's always slower than mouse turning. Being slower than the opponent is a bad thing. It usually ends with hitting the respawn button.
3. Breaking the stagger on a healer without any assistance. Really? No one is going to kill a decent healing WP by himself.
4. Not immediately dumping rage when under focus fire. Berserk makes you take more damage. Berserk can be dropped by using one skill. Or if he's really using Wot Rules? without a pocket guard and healer...yeah.
5. Using potions when out of danger. Potions are to save your ass when you come under focus fire and your support needs a second to come to your aid. Potions keep you in the fight. He was clearly getting heals during the battle. Make it easier on your healers.

You know how I know all those things are problems? I've done them myself. (Minus the dumping rage part since SMs don't use that mechanic.)

Had he not done these things, his side could have very easily won that battle or at least made it more competitive.

The elite player would rather have it be his fault. If it's his fault, then he can fix the problem. He's focused on self-improvement. If it's not his fault, he can only blame others. He's focused on the flaws of others.

I'm not too proud to ask for help. I even put up a post about how I got started on this journey as the first post in this series. Heck, here's the thread I made asking for help on WHAlliance.

Here's the official forum thread in question. I requested a combat log from the OP to potentially see what the issue might be. Going by how the thread is going, I doubt he'll send me one. He'd rather complain that it's broken when he clearly has other issues under his control that could be easily fixed.

I'm done ranting for now. We'll be back to regularly scheduled programming next time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Team Play - Group Theory - Power Gaps and Assumptions

DPS and Support numbers in my Simplified Group Theory, SGT for short, must be changed to more accurately reflect power gaps when they occur.

When dealing with the power gap in Tiers 1-3, the differences in power are negligible. So, it's not necessary to modifiy the formula at all for those tiers. In Tier 4, the are varying degrees of 40. They are as follows.

New 40 - Tier 4 greens or Devastator/Redeye

Each tier from New 40 to Sovereign creates a 5% increase in stats (and weapon DPS). Therefore, a tier difference causes .05 points to be added to both DPS and Support per player.

For example, you are a fresh 40 with 6 friends, but you all managed to hit 40 able to wear Annihilator gear. You are a balanced group containing 6 DPS and 6 Support points. You come up against group in a scenario wearing full Sovereign also a balanced group containing 6 DPS and 6 Support. The Sovereign group gets 1.2 points added to the DPS and Support to account for the power gap. So it's a 6 DPS/6 Support group versus a 7.2 DPS/7.2 Support. The 1.2 DPS advantage makes the base TTK 8.3 seconds for the Sovereign wearing team in straight up fight with all parties involved in the fight.

Doomflayer and Warpforged not only add stats, the renown they require also add effective rank, causing level correction to come into play. Doomflayer has about 20% more stat points (729) on it than Sovereign (588). It also accomplishes this in 5 pieces instead of 8. This means per slot, Doomflayer has *DOUBLE* the stats per piece than Sovereign. Most will still use the same jewelry, belt, and cloak, so the effect isn't as bad. Not to mention it adds 3 effective ranks to a player, for a level correction difference of about 7.5%. For the Sovereign to Doomflayer leap, the appropriate correction is .3 points to each DPS and Support per player to account for the increased stats and level correction bonus. Level correction bonus was determined from this thread on WHA forums. Level difference causes a linear increase in effectiveness by the percentage of the difference. So if a full Sovereign group runs into a full Doomflayer group, both balanced, the matchup is 6 DPS/6 Support against 7.8 DPS/7.8 Support. The 1.8 DPS advantage makes base TTK in straight up fight 5.6 seconds.

Warpforged has 36% more stats (992) than Doomflayer. It also adds 3 more effective levels for another 7% correction. This makes the correction .42 to each per player for this tier gap. A full Warpforged Group versus a full Doomflayer group both balanced causes 2.52 point advantage making base TTK about 4 seconds.

SGT assumes that all players are playing "prudently" and there are no healing debuffs, CC, or morales in play and that all players have enough resources available to do whatever they want. (It does account for Guard and Challenge.) One side isn't wasting it's time beating on the regen tank when the glass cannon Sorc/BW is standing right next to him for example. It also assumes a single assist with most if not all DPS focused on a single target at a time. A group running a split assist would not allow for SGT to work.

SGT basically serves to give a target caller an internal clock, much like a quarterback has an internal clock against a pass rush. It tells him how long he should stay on a target, whether or not the DPS hitting his healers are a threat, and whether or not it's safe to push forward among other things. SGT gives an average TTK for a group. You may well be able to kill the BW/Sorc before SGT tells you you should. You may not be able to kill the regen tank before SGT says you should. But the balanced Warpforged group should be able to wipe the balanced Doomflayer group in about 24 seconds in a straight fight.

When you load into a scenario, you should always pull up the scoreboard, see who you are a facing, and make an estimation of the situation using SGT to set your internal clock for that opponent.

Next time, I'll start going into Advanced Group Theory which makes modifications to Simplified Group Theory to account for TTK for individual players, healing debuffs, CC, and resource management.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Team Play - Group Theory - Estimating TTK

To win a fight in WAR, you have to keep a couple statements true. First, your outgoing DPS must exceed your enemy's mitigation and healing. If this does not occur, you will never kill your opponent. Second, incoming DPS must be handled adequately by your mitigation and healing to allow your outgoing DPS enough time to score kills.

The ultimate resource in WAR, and life for that matter, is time. Having DPS and Support numbers to compare is useless unless you can convert this into time. Specifically, I'm referring to time to kill, or TTK. The two initial statements can be summarized with the following statement: Your TTK must be less than your enemy's TTK to win a fight.

TTK in WAR changes geometrically with the ratio of DPS to Support. Say for instance you are running around solo and you bump into a healer. For this example, say the healer won't attack you and will just heal himself to buy time for friends to show up. The healer is capable of healing himself for 700 hp/sec and you are capable of dealing 1200 hp/sec and the healer has 7500 health. Your DPS overcomes his healing at a rate of 500 hp/sec, meaning he will drop in 15 seconds. You get help from an ally, who can also deal 1200 hp/sec to this player. The healer is now taking 1700 hp/sec over his healing capacity, meaning he will drop in about 4.42 seconds instead. The DPS doubles while the TTK drops by a factor of about 3.4. Even a 25% increase in damage, 400 hp/sec more outgoing damage, would cut TTK in about half.

TTK is about how much DPS exceeds the available Support. I've been able to approximate TTK in small group encounters using the ratio of DPS to Support available at any given time. I determined this experimently through watching a lot of the raw scenario footage I have. Feel free to test it yourself.

Tarelther's Simplified Group Theory of TTK states that TTK is approximately equal to 10 seconds divided by the point difference of one group's DPS and the other's Support at any given moment. It assumes equal rank, gear and renown on each side. The formula can be modified to account for these differences, but that's another post. Also, this only gives a snapshot of any given moment. It changes constantly during the course of the battle.

The phrase at any given moment is important because the key to consistently winning even match-ups is to temporarily alter this ratio into your favor by various means.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cool RR100 Bonus

This was really fun to see once I logged in and saw my guildmate hit RR100.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Team Play - Group Theory

One of the things I love about WAR is the varied number of ways one can balance a group. I've given a few examples on this blog earlier. I've discovered that I can distill those specific groups into a very simple formula for balancing a group.

Players have one of three roles in a group in WAR. A player can deal damage to an enemy, deal with incoming damage to the group, or a little of both. I like to refer to these as DPS, Support, or DPS Support.

Any pure DPS class in offensive spec and gear is DPS. Any defensive tank or full healer is Support. Hybrids are DPS Support. Defensive DPS are classified here because they do not require nearly the support of an offensive DPS freeing up support classes to support others.

I use a very simple point system for building a group. A DPS is worth 2 points of DPS. A Support is worth 2 points of support. A DPS Support is worth 1 point DPS and 1 point Support. In order to be a viable group, the group requires 5 points of DPS and 5 points of Support. An exception is a group containing any full DPS needs a full healer to be viable. I'm sure there's more exceptions, but this is meant to be a general overview.

This makes for 3 viable totals. 5 DPS and 7 Support is what I classify as a defensive group. 6 DPS and 6 Support is a balanced group. 7 DPS and 5 Support is an aggressive group. I like the aggressive group personally, but sometimes defensive play is the best idea.

This idea forms the basis of my target priority selection. Basically, I'll use this to figure out how I can shift the balance of damage into my favor and approximate how long it should take me (or the enemy) to drop a target provided no intervening cause comes into play. By intervening cause I mean using a CC or potion or pocket item or something to cover for a temporary loss of DPS or Support or both.

But I'll get to that later. I've got some 50% bonus renown to get.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The effect of RR100

Before anyone says anything, no, I'm not talking about me hitting 100. I'm barely 82.

One of the WPs in my guild is currently RR99. He'll be 100 by Sunday. Already though, he is causing a massive difference for us. This guy hits like a truck. Yeah, you gotta give him a pocket guard, but man, people explode when he hits them.

So yeah, there's a bit of a power gap happening. But honestly, it's not as bad as it was.

Players used to enter Tier 4 at rank 32 and would have to face players of RR80, or effectively rank 41. This is a 9 rank gap. Now players can avoid Tier 4 until 40 and will potentially face players of RR100, or effectively rank 46. This is a 6 rank gap. Players can attain RR80 very quickly now, dropping the disadvantage to 5 ranks.

But the RR90 and RR100 gear is soooo much better than other set gear. In terms of stats, not really. Basically the stat set bonuses for Doomflayer and Warpforged were built into the items themselves.

I've faced many RR90+ opponents. Yeah they've got a little bit of an edge, but it's nothing that organization cannot overcome.

My biggest issue with WAR right now is it just plain has too many bugs. After playing in the RIFT betas so far, this only stands out even more. The PvP is WAR is light years ahead of PvP in RIFT in my opinion. This is to be expected since WAR was designed from the ground up for PvP primarily. RIFT is more of a PvE game. Don't get wrong, I like PvE when it's good, but it doesn't compare to an intelligent opponent.

I've preordered RIFT, and it'll be my PvE game. I do miss raiding with my old guild in Vanguard. I was Erasial, Raki Disciple of Watchtower on Xeth. (And no, it was NOT a Jehovah's Witnesses guild.) But when I need a PvP fix, WAR all the way.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The shift from AoE to single target healing

I logged into WAR a little bit this past week. It was my first playing since the adjustment to the WP/DoK group healing. I was in my offensive kit, but I used full Sovereign for Leading the Charge to try to keep up with the crazy ass slayer who is now the new leader of my guild.

Um, yeah, I could tell the difference. Before the change AoE healing could cover the guard damage I took in DPS mode. Now I need some single target healing to stay up while doing so. With a shield on in defensive spec, my regen can cover what Guard damage gets past my shield.

If my healer has to use single target healing to keep me up, he can't heal anyone else until I'm ok or he has to let me drop.

I have been tempted to pull out the shield just for that reason. Way back in the day when I was ranking up my SM, I was a Vaul/Hoeth S/S tank. I hit like a girl, but I took it like a man. The S/S build works in warband situations, quite well actually, but I find it lacking for scenario play.

I also played a little bit of Rift today in the warfronts. Oh man. If you were complaining about the marauder pull in WAR, the warlord taunt that you can buy for 8 soul points actually pulls enemy players right to you. And it's not on a 30s recast. Oh no. That bad boy refreshes every 8 seconds. There's no global CC immunities for now either. Not only that, tanks can buy a branch ability in the PvP soul that makes their taunts work like challenge reducing damage output to everyone save the taunter. Rank 1 was 20% and the ability has 3 ranks, so 60% damage cut isn't unlikely. The only saving grace of this is the warlord soul's DPS is pathetic.

I've got an easy 2 weeks coming up. I've got continuing education classes for the next two weeks to renew my insurance licenses. I'm feeling a little better now. I'm not quite as tired, but I'm still not 100%. Hopefully I'll make my full return soon enough.