Thursday, August 6, 2009

Burst versus Sustained DPS In Solo Content

There's a lively discussion going on in the comments of my post about 2-3 shotting mobs in WoW, even though it's no longer patch day, so it's not like people are just milling around with nothing better to do. :)

I was originally commenting on how various classes fared at soloing non-elite mobs, in particular how a variety of less-squishy classes were actually killing stuff faster than my mage. I hadn't realized that, by focusing down on one specific aspect of the game (which happens to be the one that gets 75% of my gaming time), I had actually stacked the deck AGAINST mages.

It seems crazy to even write that mages are bad at soloing non-elite mobs. Letting every class do enough damage to solo mobs and level as fast as anyone without the need for a group was the one really different thing that Blizzard brought to the AAA MMORPG genre (to the chagrim of many). I mow down non-elites left and right, one at time or all at once in a giant AOE pack. What I hadn't been considering was the finish line. Mages are, by and large, built for sustainable DPS. By contrast, fighting non-elite mobs is a time for burst DPS.

WoW's level 80 solo mobs have 12K hp and a rudimentary AI. Even the worst geared level 80 player has 14-15K HP, an actual person at the keyboard who probably does not want to die, and possibly heals and resilience in a PVP setting. Bosses in 5-mans have at least 300K HP with a variety of abilities that require responses from players, and raid bosses have HP in the millions.

In short, the solo mob is the most trivial target in the game, and there is a design niche for letting players do enough burst DPS to kill a 12K HP mob without necessarily having the sustained DPS to compete on the DPS meters against tougher foes. As Delbin put it, "the mob gets wiped out in a single windfury-shock combo, so you don't notice the DPS drop when you're waiting for stormstrike or windfury to come off cooldown".

The point I raised - killing the mobs in 2-3 hits is a more powerful strategy than using snares to control the mob for long enough to kill it in 4 hits - is true. It just turns out that sustained DPS is actually a group dedicated role. It's a more convenient handicap to have when soloing than being focused on healing or mitigation, but it's not the way you would choose to set the class up if you were focusing just on the solo aspect of the game. It doesn't matter that my sustainability would allow me to mow down dozens of mobs without running out of mana, if I've had to stop and eat after a handful to replenish my HP, anymore than it matters to the raiding DPS Shaman that they have armor and healing in a situation where they shouldn't be getting hit or wasting DPS time on subpar heals.

Of course, that's the challenge of making a game that's well-rounded and expecting the same set of classes to perform in a wide variety of playstyles.


Fish said...

Perfect example of this is my retribution paladin. I can mow through solo mobs with ease, 2-3 hits in general. Get into an instance and I have to struggle to top 1700 DPS.

On further review, I'm fine with it. I don't think everything needs to be evenly balanced. I enjoy solo questing, I just instance for gear or to group with friends, and they don't care that my DPS isn't that great.

Whats my main again? said...

I guess if you look at it in terms of output... you have a mob with 12k hps. If you are a level 80 dps you probably should be doing around 1500 dps. This means it will take 8 seconds to kill said mob. In my shaman's case where I can do 4k dps on a target dummy without using any cds... the mob dies in 3 seconds.

On the other end of the spectrum is a level 80 healer pulling maybe 800 dps... it would take you 15 seconds to kill the mob. We can even throw the lvl 78 undergeared healer killing the same mob while leveling doing 600 dps in where it takes a full 20 seconds to kill a mob.

So even just looking at things from a dps standpoint... you have a variance from 3 to 20 seconds on the same mob.

So ya.. even avoiding the burst vs sustained part things just don't take long to die if you are a dps... and it only gets faster the better your gear gets.

That is the price you pay for having solo content I guess... Especially since this game is balanced around group dynamics.

ZacharyPruckowski said...

I notice this two. I'm barely Naxx-geared, and my elemental shaman gets lvl 80 mobs in 3 button-presses: Chain Lightning, Flame Shock, Lava Burst, dead.

It's not that I think that's bad, it's just that I feel like there's a niche for a 20k-30k HP mob that hits moderately, such that I have to actually try against it, and combat lasts 10-15 seconds. The Elemental Revenants in Wintergrasp are a good example. Normal mobs aren't a threat unless I pull 4+ of them, and Elites require groups, so I feel like there should be more mobs at the optimal difficulty - enough to be challenging, but not enough to kill me unless I make a decent-sized mistake.

Betty said...

As a T8 Destro warlock more often then not I 2 shot mobs with immo/conflag, if I didn't need to cast immolate I could potentially 1 shot a mob every 10 seconds.

TBH I actually expected the base HP of mobs in 3.2 to be slightly higher (14-15k), but since I guess most peoples gear isn't quite there yet may happen in 3.3.

Sadly the problem with making mobs a challege would require them to be able to hurt you and likely causing the need to eat/drink between each mob which no one really wants to do. WoW would really need some form of OOC regen to make it work

Beltayn said...

Seriously, how did we end up with such an impatient bunch of players?

"Sadly the problem with making mobs a challege would require them to be able to hurt you and likely causing the need to eat/drink between each mob which no one really wants to do. WoW would really need some form of OOC regen to make it work."

What's wrong with taking a minute to eat and drink? What do we actually get out of making everything go faster? Players seem to describe everything as boring and worth just skipping through. Skip through the combat as fast as possible, travel needs to be faster so we can get it over with, ghost runs need to be faster, reagents need to go away so we can get ready for stuff faster etc, etc etc...

Where the hell are we trying to get to that we need to be there so urgently?

I'm pretty sure this whole faster, faster, faster thing is the reason we're seeing such fluctuations in subscribers. Something new comes out (WotLK), the hordes rush in, then a month or two later they've burned through it all and they're bored, so they all quit... until the next big thing comes along.

I wonder if Bliz is going to do the same thing with Cataclysm, or if they're going to aim for more of a slow burn scenario.