Friday, August 7, 2009

The Time Per Mob Variable

The other interesting sub-discussion from my post about weak solo mobs in WoW focused on the relative time it takes to kill mobs in various games.

WoW was built around short time per mob, and appears to have made a conscious decision to accelerate that pace for soloing while using a group spec. It's fine from a storytelling perspective, or if you're trying to solo as a tank or healing spec, it just makes for slightly boring gameplay if you're an overgeared DPS spec and things die before you have the need, or even the opportunity, to think about tactics. I don't know that I need to spend more time on this point, having covered it twice this week.

I haven't played EQ2's stereotypical DPS classes yet, because the game's more extended combat makes them feel weak by comparison to their WoW counterparts. I've focused on the finesse-like feel of the Dirge over the more powerful Swashbuckler, and the lightly armored kiting and utility of the melee Warden over arguably more powerful melee hybrid classes like the Inquisitor or Shadow Knight. Mobs take long enough to kill that I go through my skill rotation twice in a fight, with time to think about what to do if I get an add (run on the dirge, stack some HOT spells on the Warden). Perhaps it seems slower, and perhaps it actually is slower at the game's higher levels (I've spent the majority of my time in old content that has since had leveling enhancements added), but the solo combat has a bit more of the tactical feel that you need to be doing group content to get in WoW.

In the limited time that I played it, Warhammer appears to have structured its PVE content to approximately mirror the durability of RVR foes - the game very deliberately did not want players getting insta-gibbed the way that WoW characters do, they built the classes with that in mind, and then balanced the mobs to the classes instead of the other way around. In hindsight, I wonder if that may be part of what made the game's PVE feel lackluster. A long match against a player, who may behave in unexpected ways, keeps players on their toes. A long match against a mindless mob, who takes as many hits as the player would, is far less interesting.

LOTRO (Before and after)
My experience with LOTRO is harder to gauge because I've spent the majority of my time playing a single class, the Champion, which may or may not have changed roles in the two years that I've been away.

Champions were at once point top melee DPS classes, though I get the impression they're now looked to more for AOE and off-tanking. The character has heavy armor, AOE abilities, and a few self-heals, but no crowd control. The way to do things when you get multiple foes is to wade into the crowd and hack away at all of them at once. Combat against a single mob feels like it take a while, even compared to EQ2, but combat with 2-3 mobs captures the swashbuckling feel of something like a Pirates of the Carribean swordfight, with a battle going back and forth and my character eventually emerging on top of a pile of vanquished foes.

The issue I've had since dusting off the Champion two years later is durability. The DPS stance for the class turns off all of the damage avoidance stats - parries and evasion - but is necessary for resource generation and overall damage levels. This puts time to kill in an unfortunately critical position - I wouldn't mind the time I spend per mob, except that my life depends on killing the first mob and having enough HP left to outlast the second. If I have time to try out an alt, now that I have access to the new classes, it will be interesting to see how the time to kill varies.

The feel of combat
One of the fun things about gaming in an era where we have this many AAA titles on the market has been having the opportunity to see how each of them has handled the combat pacing design. I guess that WoW's solo game runs into a challenge because one set of character classes need to support the full range of playstyles. Perhaps it seems strange to miss having fights take longer, but I do think that challenging solo content is one area right now where WoW is sorely lacking. This is not necessarily because Blizzard hates solo players. Rather, this niche was less important than allowing healers and tanks to solo at an acceptable pace so that they don't quit, leaving no one to tank and heal group PVE content at endgame.


Fish said...

One of the reasons I liked wow in the first place, is it's similarity to another blizzard game, diablo. Being able to obliterate scores of mobs at a time just makes you feel powerful, even if you only have to kill 10 foozles. The occasional higher level mob or elite that makes you work provides variety. Ideally, I wouldn't want to have to group for anything except instances. . .

Dorgol said...

While not the same, I brought up the pace of combat when I got to discussing my experience in EVE.

EVE combat was a drag. Long rate of fires, minimal player input (maneuver never really seemed to play a part once you got started), and then just waiting for the enemy to die.

WoW combat IS fast. Too fast for DPS. And while my Paladin kills slower as Holy, he can kill 10 guys at the same time since they can't out damage his healing. I'm betting I would feel different if I were a Priest trying to solo, though.

I'm all for longer combat. I'm all for feeling like I'm being challenged when I'm solo. But there is a balance point. EVE was too mundane. WoW is too fast. WAR (according to what was written here) is longer, but not interesting.

Would be interesting to see all three aspects - length, challenge, "interesting" - balanced out.

Green Armadillo said...

@Dorgol: A criticism I heard once about fleet battles in EVE was that you would be at 100% and then you'd be targeted, focus fired by the entire enemy fleet, and dead within the time it takes them to get a lock on you.

My guess would be that this is the kind of experience they're trying to minimize. The devs can't do anything about it when 40 players decide to use one MA, but they can reduce the pace of combat to the point where the focus fire victim in a 5 vs 5 encounter would always have time to react. That's also the stated rationale for Warhammer's combat pacing, and a big part of why I like their instanced scenarios better than WoW battlegrounds.

(Meanwhile, Blizzard has spent this entire expansion cycle struggling to figure out how to reconcile both the pace of burst DPS and the quantity of healing used in PVE content with the game's PVP.)

Anonymous said...

that's the advantage of playing a healer in wow, or a dual-class, or tank.

why are certain classes consistently top ranked in certain pvp scenarios?

because obviously tanks in PVE need to be able to take damage and deal damage, as damage generates threat.

furthermore, a healer or 2 healers (a 10 man) need to be able to out heal a raid boss.

actually, let me rephrase this. As a mage, do you have problems killing a healing class in a 1v1 pvp scenario? what if you are a sustained dps with no mortal strike?

I've had some pitiful times trying to kill a well geared healer on my paladin, but i can take a dps easily.

now with replenishment, you can't even make certain spell casters oom. don't know what it is like for a mage, but certainly you can agree your mana management is less of a concern these days.

basically blizzard is going to have to give all classes a Mortal strike or healing reduction to balance PVE vs PVP. oh wait, they already started after seeing how dominate warriors during BC.

Anonymous said...


I really liked your series analysis on time for a mob. Your blog gives a very unique intelligent approach to MMOs and I love to read it.

now, then on to the real question:

I was thinking about playing wow 3.2, but then i realized 3.3 will probably be out in 4 months (or around november).

with blizzard releasing things like 5 man normal dungeons with epic loot (luckily i never farmed any raid or finished all the heorics in northrend), i might as well wait until the final patch (wow 3.3?) before the expansion to get the best (and quickest) honor/token gear.

it just seems like speeding up the patches to this ever increasingly impatient player base ( and the forums already speculating on 3.3, etc), means spending more time/gold on constantly replacing gear.

I don't like that, I hate replacing an entire set of gear every few months. I want a set of gear for the start of the expansion, then upgrade the last patch.

but you see what i mean? you hinted at it in an earlier blog, I want to know WHY blizzard keeps pumping out patches too quickly (i thought the pace of BC was great), and what I can do as a player to be efficient with my time.

do other games force the constant gear replacement like WOW? LOTRO sure didn't seem to when i played it for half a year.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

I liked EQ2's combat a lot more than WoW's because it felt more tactical, as stated. I said the same thing in a comment when Wolfshead did his 15 minute review of EQ2. Some people aren't going to be happy with the slower pace, but I definitely liked it.

As for LotRO's champions, you are incorrect based on my current experiences. Champions are still top melee DPS, but tactical abilities are currently seen as much stronger. Plus you have the problems you've always had with melee DPS in any game: having to move with the target instead of just standing in one place and going "pew-pew". Champions still do good damage, though.

As for stances, all your stances generate fervour (the fuel for other abilities) and you have two basic abilities that generate it, too. The problem is the strongest stance, the one that eliminates avoidance and parrying, gives a +15% bonus to damage. But, it's tricky to solo in. Last patch they made the stance reduce incoming healing by 30%, too. So, learning to "stance dance" is recommended.

Magson said...

You run with your dirge when you get an add? When you've got that lovely fear spell over there on the hotbar shouting "Me! Me! Pick Me!"

If you get that add, fear him off, finish off the one you're killing, then wait for the add to run back at you. Or hit him with your ranged root attack, debuff him, and *then* let him run up at you. You should be able to take him relatively easily then.

I can handle an add, and sometimes even 2 adds in RoK on my dirge with the fear.

Stabs said...

Coming to WoW from Diablo 2 I thought it was extraordinary slow per mob by comparison.

I occassionally had fights back then that ground to stalemate against a healer mob I couldnt get down while regening just enough mana to keep my priest alive. I usually spotted the fight was pointless and moved along in less than 30 minutes fortunately.

Longasc said...

Hunters are very easy in LOTRO at the moment, supreme ranged DPS.

I played a Champion and they still go nicely for fast levelling, but they indeed take damage due to their new stance mechanics, as Psychochild already pointed out.