Experienced Points: Vexing Complexity

By Shamus
on Jan 7, 2011
Filed under:
Column

This column might not be of tremendous value to us here this week. We’ve kind of already had this discussion last Wednesday. But I wanted to expand my thoughts on it a bit and go over my problems with the WoW gear mechanics in more detail. And I thought it was worth taking the discussion over to the Escapist.

I predict that the most common response to my suggestions at the end will be “But, that would break PvP!” Which is the response I always get whenever I suggest fixing any of the ridiculous number of things wrong with the solo and co-op aspects of the game.

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From the Archives:

  1. neothoron says:

    To be fair, the stat system gets a little depth when you consider things such as:
    * Cappable stats: the kind of stats for which “It’s good/great to have at least X of that stat, but having more is not very useful/useless.” Hit rating is the poster boy for that category of stats, and Spirit or Haste could fall into it.
    * Gems – will you shoot for the gemming bonus or your “best stat”? which meta-gem will you use?
    * Reforging – will you trade some of a stat for another? (Useful when considered with cappable stats)

    Of course, none of it is likely to be relevant until you get to max level.

    Otherwise, I liked your suggestions – but they probably won’t fit WoW.

    • Desgardes says:

      I don’t see how changing the ridiculous looking armor would break PvP.

      But, on point, I don’t see how those three are adding depth, just, as Shamus said, complexity. Those are the same sorts of calculations that Extra Credits was talking about. You aren’t choosing, there is a right answer. With the cappable stats, you don’t want to waste, I’m not overly familiar with the gem things, but the other one ties right into the capping. If there is a right answer, it’s not a choice, and so you add complexity without a meaning to it.

      • Veloxyll says:

        or, in tl;dr format: It’s not choice, it’s Calculus. still.

      • Robyrt says:

        The stupid-looking armor is to provide a visual cue as to what your PvP opponent is wearing. Unfortunately, this leads to Sirlin’s “Football Helmet Clown Shoes Robot” problem, where a player has to choose between gameplay effectiveness and harmonious looks.

        You could mitigate this without overhauling the WOW stat system by creating several sets of functionally identical equipment that match, so you can hop on to the auction house and buy yourself a sweet outfit without compromising power.

        • Ian says:

          You generally don’t get “Football Helmet Clown Shoes Robot” syndrome when you max out your gear, though. Generally, the tiered gear provides you with a matching set. In my experience, you can mix and match gear from nearby tiers without too much clashing.

          For instance, when Cataclysm was released my priest had a mixture of tier 9 and tier 10 PvE healer gear and I was able to tastefully mix and match those without issue.

  2. Zukhramm says:

    Choices in talents are so bland it’s almost interesting imagining how Blizzard thought when designing them. Since you’re forced to max out your chosen tree, and are given so many points realtice to the amount of talents avalible, the choice is not so much about what talents to take but which two or so talents not to take.

    Wow, how pointless.

    • Dys says:

      That’s certainly true of the Cataclysm changes. Back in the day there were certain peculiar builds, memorably the druid Dreamstate build, where you had more or less even numbers in two separate trees.

      It’s interesting, actually, that the changes which seem to have been about making choices more apparent for new players are the same changes which narrowed the range of choices available. Is it not true that increased complexity will always lead to increased confusion?

      I suppose not in the case of emergent complexity, but when built into the fundamentals of the game.

      • Ace Calhoon says:

        Talents have simply gotten less interesting as the player base has “solved” the game. Builds like the Dreamstate build were becoming more or less the exception to the rule… Most classes had a single build that was “best” by a very large margin by Wrath.

        Plus, being able to get marquee abilities at level ten is *amazing*.

        • Trix says:

          There’s a reason people got familiar with the term “cookie cutter build”.

          The new trees are refreshing in that they force you to choose from the “utility” talents that were otherwise skipped in the past (when they don’t increase damage/healing/survivability, why bother?).

  3. Joe Cool says:

    “But, that would break PvP!”

    …is the reason I hate PvP so much in WoW. I have had so many cool toys taken away from me because they were “unfair” in PvP. I wish the PvP was just a separate game with different rules.

    • krellen says:

      We’ve got that in City of Heroes. It’s not much better.

    • swimon says:

      At the very least Blizzard should choose which they want to focus on. Do they want to have a balanced PvP or do they want a comprehensible PvE in their effort to have both they have neither. At least this was the case back when I played (open beta – Ahn’Qiraj).

      • Zukhramm says:

        This conflict between PvE and PvP kind of shows in the story too, with Blizzard trying both to keep the Horde and Alliance fighting, yet having some kind of outside thread and the player characters joining forces with some neutral faction instead to combat it.

        • Klay F. says:

          Yes, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to come across a quest-giver who says something to the extent of, “I don’t care if some stupid dragon-thing is ripping the world apart at its seams, those Horde/Alliance tards need to die!” It is at this point where my internal scripting takes over and I habitually facepalm myself into a stupor.

          On a different level though, I kind of respect those NPCs because they recognize that the Horde/Alliance is the only consistent threat in the entire game, when the Burning Legion/Lich King/Deathwing are only temporary inconveniences who will be dealt with whenever the Blizz devs get around to opening up the appropriate instance.

        • Will says:

          The whole PvP thing in WoW was always pretty forced. By the end of FT the Horde and Alliance were pretty much solid with each other barring a few extremist factions like the Kul’Tiras Navy and the Forsaken. Having the conflict between the various races, especially the Orcs and Humans, crop up again in large-scale war kind of craps all over pretty much everything Thrall stood for.

          • Dys says:

            Which is why Thrall is gone, forsaking leadership of the Horde for his shamanic duties.

            Garrosh Hellscream was always a violent bastard, I really do think he cares more about hurting Wrynn than dealing with Deathwing.
            That said, Varian Wrynn himself is no better, xenophobic asshole that he is.

            • Klay F. says:

              To be fair, Wrynn’s xenophobia is kind of understandable when you realize that pretty much every single person he ever cared for or loved had been murdered in cold blood by one orc or another (excepting his son of course, which is interesting because his son is way too adorable to survive for very much longer, considering the lengths Wrynn goes to protect him).

  4. Sheer_Falacy says:

    You mention the fundamental tradeoff being between survivability and efficiency, but that’s almost never true – the only place it shows up is PVE vs PVP gear. Generally, the tradeoff is between types of efficiency. Some pieces are just better than others, and it’s up the the theorycrafters and simulators to figure out which those are.

    None of the tradeoffs you mentioned would work particularly well in WoW.

    For example, armor that reduced more damage but slowed your attack speed would be used by every tank, and no dpsers. Ranged weapons with better distance but less damage would not be used by anyone, because nothing requires it – nothing could require it or else it would be undoable without the higher range version. Melee weapons with higher damage but lower crit chance exist in game now, sort of – you can get a weapon that helps crit chance or one that helps haste.

    The WOW system is not, in general, designed around tradeoffs, particularly for DPS classes in PVE. It’s based around finding the optimal solution when that solution isn’t instantly obvious. It can be interesting when that solution changes by class or talent spec, but overall getting gear is about getting the best piece.

    Imagine if you actually had a real tradeoff from gear. So one piece is better for fight A and another piece is better for fight B. Suddenly, if you want to be the best you can be, you need both pieces. Do that for every slot and you end up with 15 extra things to carry around at all times. What if there’s a fight C that needs yet different items? Or maybe you need tank gear and healer gear and you just doubled what you have to carry around. It’s not fun.

    The reason why there are all these different stats is that without them, the only thing on the items would be “awesome rating”. And when you got something new, all you’d get is +2 awesome rating. That’s not enough for people.

    Oh, and dodge rating doesn’t affect spells. Parry doesn’t affect ranged attacks (it’s basically the same as dodge at this point except not all classes can parry). Block reduces damage some of the time and only works when you have a shield, while armor reduces damage all of the time and works all of the time (though neither works on spells). Haste isn’t speed, but it does affect speed (the biggest thing that affects weapon speed is what weapon you use). Haste also affects spells and a few other things. I’m pretty sure most of these things are directly answered by the tooltips.

    • ngthagg says:

      This is a good point, highlight the lack of tradeoffs. WoW is designed around the boss fights in the raids, where the keys to winning are, in no particular order: skill playing your class (ie juggling abilities), knowledge of the fight, and quality of gear.

      The first two keys depend on your personal ability as a WoW player. The third, gear quality, is a replacement for experience. The more time you spend fighting end-game bosses, the better the gear you will have. But using gear as the new experience means a lot of stat differentiation, so that a Fury Warrior can improve differently from a Ret Paladin or from a Rogue, etc etc.

      My experience has been that leveling is either win or die. There isn’t really a middle area where the challenge is high and the player can only be successful with a great deal of skill and effort. You never hit flow while leveling. But in raids, it happens all the time. This is where WoW really shines.

      So if gear and stats seem pointless and confusing, it’s because most of the game isn’t designed around them. Which sucks if you get your enjoyment out tweaking your gear and stats.

      • Trix says:

        When leveling, you can still stack certain stats if you are judicious with your gear….and it WILL have an effect, albeit not as noticeable.

        Hit rating is something I usually like to go for, since consistent hits are always nice.

    • Zukhramm says:

      So you’re saying the amount of stats are just there to look good, because people expect lots of numbers in an RPG?

    • swimon says:

      but you do get nothing but +2 to awesome rating the only difference is that there are more numbers and it’s harder to make out which item has the higher awesome rating.

      Also a ranged weapon with higher range but lower damage would be useful in raids. It could let you stand outside AoE things costing less mana for the healers or maybe let you stand still more often meaning overall you would do more damage it would also be great for pulling and kiting.

      I don’t know how raids work nowadays but back in the day gear only got interesting when you went up against elemental AoE. That way you would have to choose between damage or survivability in the form of elemental resistance (for a dps class at least). Since dead dps is 0 it could make for some interesting choices even if it usually meant either all damage or all resistance.

      • Yeah, I sure see a lot less concern about getting resistance than there used to be. Now it is just get more hit points and count on the healer to see you through.

        • Will says:

          Turned out to be more efficient that way.

        • Trix says:

          The reasoning behind this was that pure resistance fights aren’t all that interesting (and time consuming, getting all that resist gear for the raid). Once you had the require amount of resistance, it turned into just like any other boss. Plus, often the gearing for the fight took forever (or cost fair bit) and was an annoying roadblock for most guilds.

          Nowadays the focus goes from gear to the actual players. WoLK brought things a little too far and made player survivability a non-issue save for tanks, but Cata is a lot about avoiding the fire, using survivability buttons, etc. Its a lot more interesting than crafting/equipping a couple resist pieces.

      • Moriarty says:

        more range with less dps would be awful in wow.

        People had to use zero range weapons for every fight with less aoe and if an encounter calls for x range, everyone had to get one of those for one fight. It wouldn’t add choice, it would just mean you have to get more stuff

        • Shamus says:

          “if an encounter calls for x range”

          I assume you’re talking about raiding.

          I was talking about the eighty levels of content before that. And naturally these choices are based on the assumption that the rest of the game is balanced around them. Like I said, it’s too late to fix it now, I’m saying that’s what would need to be done to make that aspect of the game interesting for the first 80 levels.

          • Moriarty says:

            ah, well I guess it makes more sense when you aren’t forced to play the one most efficient way like you are in raids.

            I tend to forget the leveling part when talking about wow, there’s a huge difference between playing your first char to towards the levelcap and starting a new alt.
            I remember playing for half a year before reaching lv 60 in the old days, yet once you’ve figured out how to level effiviently, getting a new character to the level cap shouldn’t take two weeks.

            Altough I don’t really see the appeal anymore, doesn’t questing in a mmo always feel boring?

            The combat stays mostly the same for months and storylines in different areas aren’t really connected, so it feels like playing 30different rpgs with bland characters and boring combat.
            Raiding is still fun, but I can’t remember why I put up with wow for so long until I got to the raid parts.

            • Veloxyll says:

              Some of the stories behind the quests have managed to lure me in with wanting to know more. otoh running H-Stonecore again makes me >: ( Class ADD means I haven’t hit up the raids yet.

            • psivamp says:

              To me, MMO’s are boring. Because I play solo, and never get to “what WoW is really about.” I don’t really get the idea that I’m supposed to slog through 70 or 80 levels of non-content before “you really get to experience WoW.”

              • krellen says:

                People that say the game starts at 80 (or whatever max level is now) are wrong. While there is a game there, it’s not the only game (nor is it the focus of most of the development; Cataclysm was not an expansion for raiders.)

                • Jarenth says:

                  Well, not just an expansion for raiders. Rest assured that the next few big content patches (4.1, 4.2, etcetera) are going to be heavy in new instances and raids, and pretty much devoid of anything interesting for low-levels. That’s been Blizzard’s MO in Wrath, and it’s making them oodles of money and public approval.

                • Veloxyll says:

                  Tbh there are 4 games in WoW. Levelling (which Shamus is playing now), instancing, raiding, and PVP. They each play significantly differently.

            • Zukhramm says:

              And I’m the oposite. Raiding, I just don’t get it.

              • Trix says:

                Used to think like that back in the day, and I still understand the mindset. But then I got in a guild with friends and fell in love with big numbers and crazy boss mechanics.

                Many 5-mans are quite good nowadays with new and interesting bosses, but they just don’t match up to the challenge and complexity of a good raid boss for me.

            • Jack V. says:

              Good point. I remember people talking about DnD 3.5, and saying things like “the only sane class is XXXX with XXXX, anything else and you’re just stupid and not a team player” and they were right if you were playing a heavily-adversarial non-immersive level-20 campaign but not if you’d just made a new 1st level character, and they didn’t realise that’s what some people did by default.

              • Jeff says:

                3.x makes a poor example, given that the other examples (including WoW) try to have everyone on a more or less even playing field.

                The statement “playing X instead of Y is stupid”, when X is mechanically inferior to Y in every single way and X can do and be everything Y can, is a truism.

                This is one of the key issues with 3.x, detractors talk about mechanics and defenders respond that it’s fun and therefore the mechanical criticisms are wrong.

                It’s not a “taste” thing – for any sort of campaign, X will be superior to Y in every application. This is an issue with 3.x, and not the issue with WoW.

                When leveling in WoW, as others have pointed out, the difference in what you choose make little difference. WoW’s choices is like between different kind of vans when you’ll always be traveling on city streets at the speed limit. 3.x’s options was the difference between choosing a van and a Vechicle that can fly, swim through the water, fly through space, and drive on city streets at the speed limit.

                • Trix says:

                  I have to make one point, though. I’m very motivated by whims when I play something like WoW, and often this results in some…interesting…setups. Leveling 1-60 as holy priest in early BC (before healing classes had any spell damage), leveling 1-80 as a prot warrior (before dungeon finder), and more recently…leveling a worgen rogue 1-64 without ever taking off the top hat :D.

                  There are plenty of options when it comes to leveling, just not necessarily the fast/easy ones. Didn’t make it less fun for me tho.

          • Ace Calhoon says:

            The tradeoffs are still there when leveling, at least for some classes. My druid had a choice between focusing on strength (more attack power for consistent DPS) or agility (less attack power and more crit for more spikey DPS).

            The trouble is that choice just doesn’t matter as much when leveling. Leveling is balanced to be winnable by any individual class, using almost any spec (including extremely sub optimal ones), played by extremely sub optimal players (i.e. people who are new, young, or simply don’t care). If you WANT to play with the gear system, you can… But all the discussion about it online focuses on (end game) instances and raids, because that’s the point in the game where the gear system becomes a requirement.

            Which, I suppose, is a pretty good indicator that there’s an issue, since people aren’t bothering with it until it becomes necessary.

      • swimon says:

        I forgot to write this last time but as Shamus pointed out there is a lot more to PvE than raiding. It’s just easy to forget that part since it’s usually not very good IMO.

    • Well, back in WotLK I had a gear score just under 6000 and several different sets of things I carried about. One for PvP, one for fire (different amount of hit than my Arcane gear), etc. Now I just swap out for fishing or cooking, and it is just an item or two.

      * Ranged weapons with better distance but less damage.

      That would be neat, especially for kiting classes. I can even see that for a modification on wands

      * Melee weapons that deliver better damage per second but cause fewer (or less severe) critical.

      They have that in every item that has a swap off between crit and damage/spellpower/attackpower/str

      * Armor that reduces incoming damage but slows your own attack speed.

      the ideal tank armor … or +armor vs. +haste

      * Items that will boost your magic potency but reduce your mana pool.

      +haste has that effect in practice, or why it is loved by fire mages, hated by arcane mages

      Even my alt, a paladin, once Prot became better for damage dealing than Ret, suddenly ended up carrying less gear in Cataclysm.

    • Blake says:

      This sounds complicated. I think I’ll avoid this game.

  5. Andy_Panthro says:

    Perhaps you’d consider having a look at Ultima Online Shamus?

    Not sure if it’s even still going, but I played it for about a year back in 2000/01, and although I really don’t like MMOs, it had me hooked for a while. Mind you, I am a big Ultima fan, so that helped.

    It certainly had far less complexity than the likes of WoW, and let newbie players be able to get up to the same standard as long-time players without necessarily requiring endless grinding.

    I certainly had a lot of fun without ever needing to put in any serious amount of playing time.

  6. Sanguine says:

    Shamus, many of the things you listed as interesting decisions do or have existed in-game in some form.

    Mages had talents that improved the range of their spells, at the cost of talents that would increase DPS.

    Melee weapons that have haste but no crit effectively offer improved DPS at the cost of crit.

    There is no analog for armour that reduces incoming and outgoing damage, except maybe Frost Armour(reduces incoming damage) vs. Mage/Molten armour (increases outgoing damage), but these are buff spells for Mages, not actual armour.

    Items that boost your magic potency (DPS) but reduce your mana pool (time to 0 mana) are any with Haste.

    The problem is that they are not really interesting choices. Just like every other stat in the game, you will always be able to work out the optimum spec/spell/stat of these more interesting decisions, and always choose the best (this can be complex for PVP, damage vs. survivability vs. utility, but for PVE the best choice is always that which allows the most DPS).

  7. bickierdyke says:

    IMHO, when it comes to charakter development by distributing skill points, there simply shouldn’t be a *wrong* answer.

    • poiumty says:

      Except if the game is competitive, in which there always is a wrong answer. You can’t exactly avoid it.

      • Zukhramm says:

        Why not? Sure nothing will be perfectly equal, but close enough should be possible.

        • poiumty says:

          “close enough” is a… complex structure. In a way, it’s the essence of balancing – making sure all classes are close enough so skill is the primary factor.

          I’m talking about skill points, however. In a non-competitive setting, spending all your skill points on survivability in PvE is a choice and nothing else. It isn’t wrong, it’s just your playstyle. In MMOs, where the concept of “kill that thing faster than your opponent” is introduced, suddenly there is no choice – you spend all your points on DPS or YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

          • Will says:

            That’s actually because of the HP\Damage ratios. In WoW as in the majority of RPG’s, the PC’s have low health, high damage, while the enemies (creeps) have high health, low damage. This means you get to pick between DPS and Endurance when engaging creeps.

            But enter into combat with another player and it becomes rocket tag; first one to hit hard wins. That’s why DPS is everything in PvP and putting effort into anything other than hitting harder faster is a waste of time: It doesn’t matter if you can recover from a fight twice as fast if your opponent kills you.

            • Moriarty says:

              you don’t actually play pvp in wow do you?

              pve is all about dps, while pvp is about survivability.

              In pve situations, you have tanks to soak up the damage for you, so your only concern is to deal as much damage as possible, this reflects on pve gear as well. You won’t be able to do competitive dps in pvp gear, because pvp gear has less dmg stats on it and more hp and defensive stats.

              • Will says:

                Uh, i was actually talking about solo play when i was talking about pve, group play is something different again.

                Solo pve is all about reducing downtime; dps is secondary to recovering from a fight faster, admittedly it might have changed since Cataclysm, but certainly prior to that it was impossible to have high enough DPS to kill enemies before they could beat you up if you skimped on survivability.

                If pvp has switched to survivability though, then that’s a pretty huge change. Most fights in pvp were over within a few seconds, so it was all about burst DPS when i last played.

                • poiumty says:

                  Open world 1v1 PVP during levelling is all about who gets the first hit in. No one ever gears for it though, if you have better gear for PvE then you automatically have better gear for PvP.

                  At higher levels it becomes all about the resillience stat. Resillience lowers damage done to you in pvp as well as critical damage and your chance to be critically hit. It stopped being about burst DPS in vanilla WoW.

                  Anyway, the “wrong” way to assign points is still there.

                • Will says:

                  I don’t think any game exists where there isn’t a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to do things. The trick is to avoid dominant strategies, which is a lot harder than it sounds, and is pretty much impossible with hard caps that can be reached.

              • Moriarty, you nailed what he missed. Interesting how the details work out sometimes.

                WoW has been in continuous evolution. Cataclysm is really WoW II, to be honest.

          • Zukhramm says:

            Yet in the reply above you say it’s about resillience rather than DPS. And I still don’t see why a game could not be designed to make both valid. Making your opponent kill you slower will give you more time to deal damage, and taking more damage but killing things faster both end with the same amounf of damage made, jsut in different ways.

            • poiumty says:

              WoW is balanced around teamplay. If people start doing too much damage in pvp, pvp itself starts becoming very short. Short fights don’t allow for much use of tactics, nor are they very fun, hence pvp must be at least a few minutes long. This was a lesson learned in vanilla WoW where people just went into battlegrounds with their super imba raid gear and 2-shot everyone. Eliminating the blitzkrieg element allowed for more consistent decision-making, gave healers more time to react and gave importance to notions such as crowd control spells and target focusing.
              Most (if not all) resillience gear also has combat stats, so eventually a full pvp-geared character will kill a non-pvp geared character very quickly while surviving for a much longer time. Gearing yourself up to “kill people fast” means nothing if they kill you just as fast but have the added benefit of surviving more.

              • Zukhramm says:

                Of course it doesn’t, but why would that be relevant when that is a situation where one part clearly has superior gear?

                • poiumty says:

                  Not superior gear, just situationally superior. I’m talking same tier pve vs pvp gear. PvP gear ends up surviving longer while doing lower damage, but it doesn’t need to do as much since the PvE geared guy is squishy.

                  To compare, i used to reach 30% unbuffed crit chance in my raid gear. A same tier pvp-geared person would cut my crit chance by 25% (which is 6 times lower) and my overall damage by 25%. Furthermore, since pvp gear has a lot more stamina, he has about 1/3rd more health than i have. Adding the other stats, he’d probably end up doing the same damage to me that i do to him (including the 25% reduction), therefore winning because he has more hit points. A crude representation, but fairly accurate.

                  That’s how blizzard designed it, for the reasons stated above: longer pvp means better gameplay.

                • Zukhramm says:

                  So one guy ends up having a lot of advantages an no disadvantage. Yes, that’s how Blizzard designed it, but that’s irrelevant as this is about how to design it some way other than how it is now.

                • poiumty says:

                  Yes, i’m arguing on how WoW is designed, because coincidentally, WoW is also one of the most balanced MMOs out there pvp-wise (and i hope no one comes to reply on how i’m wrong because 5 patches ago one class was so OP in a particular bracket of a certain pvp-related activity. I’m talking in general over here).

                  Serves my argument that as an MMO becomes more complex, it becomes impossible to balance each and every playstyle to the point that there is no “wrong choice”. There are so many variables that changing one of them always has deep implications on many others, and what was a good idea before becomes a disaster as multiple specializations are suddenly swept from the balance board (and there’s also the element of making things fun). You may be idealistic and say that the existence of wrong choices are the effect of bad design decisions, but this is present in every MMO with a layer of complexity (i.e., all of them). The complexities that MMOs reach simply don’t allow for perfect balance.

  8. Ben says:

    (Fixing it would mean starting over, and there’s no way players would stand for that. The time required to acquire the highest levels of gear in the game is phenomenal, and it would be horrifying to rob those players of their accomplishments with a reset.)

    Actually they do this regularly. Each time a patch comes out (every 4-6 months) is a “soft reset”, since new gear comes out to replace what used to be the best, and what used to be the best becomes much easier to acquire (or gear of the same quality, different source, does). Old gear is still useful though.

    The expansion is a complete gear reset. I ran ICC, the final raid in WotLK, for months but my gear from there was worse than some green items from the level 84 questing zone, quests that only take a few minutes to complete, just like in the rest of the game.

    • When I went into Northend with my crafted gear, I was at level 75 or so before the quest rewards were better. With 10 levels, that was about half-way through. I really could not have run the level 75 material at level 70 though.

      My ICC sanctified bloodmage gear probably lasted about until level 82 or so, it got replaced at about the same point (half way through). It did not take until the highlands to happen. I’m not sure that at level 80, even with the gear I had, that I could have run the Twilight Highlands and succeeded in the quests in just a few minutes. At least more than the breadcrumbs ones.

      Which class are you playing?

      Still, progression normal. Finally getting fun again too. (Ok, Vash’jr just seemed like a chore).

    • Shamus says:

      Wow.

      Weeks of raiding, abruptly rendered obsolete. Man, that is harsh. I stand corrected, though.

      Wow.

      • Moriarty says:

        Don’t forget your previous gear makes it easier to access the new top tear equip before the casuals can. Patches don’t change anything, gear-wise, only the dps numbers grow.

        Altough new addons are different. Even the best wotlk equip is inferior to quest rewards from uldum.

        Still, the players who take raiding seriously will have their shiny stuff soon enough.

        edit: eugh.. you seem to have one of those awful ads with sound effects on your site shamus

      • Honestly, I did not mind it becoming obsolete. I really was more bothered in WotLK, when my gear was good for a very long time (the time to reach 75 was much longer than the time to reach 85). I was very much making some painful decisions, all in all, as I leveled up. Though they were choices, not just calculations.

      • Danel says:

        I’m reasonably sure that it’s been different for each expansion. You may have noticed how much better Outland gear is, stat-wise… it was designed to be an upgrade for everyone right from the start, even raiders. For Wrath, on the other hand, they moderated it so that it was an upgrade for questers but the old Outland-raid gear wouldn’t be upgraded until right before Northrend raids.

        For Cataclysm, they seem to have tried to balance it, so that raiders do get to upgrade their gear, but not immediately.

      • Kdansky says:

        If the gear was the objective all along, then one should just take a screenshot of the tooltips, open photoshop, increase the numbers and print it out. There, “better imaginary gear” for your wall, and completely without hassle! The gear is NOT the target, beating the raid boss, overcoming the challenge is.

        And if someone does not understand this but insists that pixel gear was the primary target of playing a game for months, I suggest they get help to overcome their badly advanced gaming addiction. I would also love it if Blizzard would offer the top gear in their webstore for real money. Not because I want to buy it, but because it would offend the idiots.

        • Abnaxis says:

          Hey now, I like playing with new stuff and optimizing imaginary equipment, and I don’t think I need help =/

          Grabbing gear might not be why you have fun, but that does not make it an invalid reason for enjoying a game. It’s not about the numbers on the screen, it’s the anticipation of what the next drop will be. It’s the carrot on the end of the stick.

          Putting numbers in a spreadsheet isn’t fun, finding new and exciting rewards on the other side of a challenge is fun. Experimenting with different configurations to find the optimum build for you is fun.

          Except the way the system in WoW is laid out, there’s no hard way to tell the difference between two pieces of equipment, and even if there was there’s no room for variation in the way you want to lay out your character’s items. That’s the point of the article, and a valid critique for a feature that isn’t living up to its potential.

      • Mina says:

        A lot of us who raid (or raided) seriously do it for the challenge, Shamus. The gear is more like money for entrepreneurs, it’s a way of quantifying your achievements. It’s the (incoming self promotion) same mentality that makes someone turn off all their abilities and take off all their equipment to prove you can kill a boss without them

        The gear reset is actually kind of nice, because once you’re geared out with the top gear and everything is on farm status, raiding gets to be really freakin boring, so starting over now and then breathes some new life into the whole process.

        Edit: although yeah, that’s not going to be the experience of most people who raid, even.

  9. Meredith says:

    I love how anytime you make a post about problems in WoW, people who’ve been playing since launch try to tell you how wrong you are but only end up making your points for you. Every single explanation you get for why this stuff exists or how to go about getting better gear is exactly as complicated as you said in the first place. This is clearly a game with a wide gap between casual and hardcore players and I’m sure it will only continue to grow as more people play. (I’m not snarking or trying to start anything here, I just find it really amusing.)

    As far as choosing gear goes, I always just pick whatever has bigger numbers than the stuff I’m using. I’m sure it’s the wrong choice half the time.

    • Will says:

      It’s somewhat deliberate; equipment choice is primarily pointless (pick the equipment with the higher level) while levelling because the vast majority of casual players are located in that area. Equipment choice only becomes a serious math-crunching issue during high-end raids because there aren’t any casual players there, only hardcore players.

      Basically, the game is vaguely designed so that casual players can play casually and not worry too much about specifics, while the hardcore players can study the game in detail for hours to eke out that extra handful of DPS. PvP then adds another layer of complexity to the issue, but in general that’s a hardcore player arena too.

      • Veloxyll says:

        except most of us outsource our mathwork to people who like that sort of thing, and just go with what the program tells us to get.
        Seriously, when dealing with gear questions, how often is the answer “just punch your character in Rawr and go with what it tells you.”

        Healers and tanks get to play it by feel a bit – tanks getting to choose avoidance or threat or mitigation, heals balancing regen and throughput. That said, in Wrath the only choice for tanks was MOAR HPZ FOR THE HP GOD!

      • Dys says:

        It has just occured to me that the reason gear is largely irrelevant during levelling is that at max level you have a single flat array of things to fight. While levelling, you have perhaps a five or six level range of mobs which will give xp when you kill them, and a great many different regions in which to play.

        So if your gear is perfect, the best you can get, enchanted, gemmed, all the way, you can tackle yellow and orange (higher level) mobs. If you happen to be naked and punching your way through the game, you can find green (lower level) caster mobs and grind your way through them.

        In this way, you have a self correcting system which takes any difference in gear and to some extent smooths it away. If there were only ten levels and you had to gain xp by running through a single specific dungeon for each level, gear would regain its value.

    • Klay F. says:

      The problem with the complexity is mindset, I’m afraid. On one end you have people who’ve been playing since vanilla. They’ve had to deal with all the bullshit that came before, and because of the history of MMOs before WoW, they were already used to it, some of them even liked the complexity because it became a way to differentiate between them and the people who didn’t want to invest a significant portion of their lives (the hardcore players called these people lazy and noobs and other infantile names). If you spend any time at all on the official forums, pretty much all you ever hear is how Blizzard are continually dumbing the game down for the casuals. The hardcore players resent this immensely. Any change (no matter how minor) that closes the gap between the casuals and the hardcore players is immediately met with loathing from the vocal minority.

      I guess what I’m saying is that the biggest issues to the casual players aren’t issues at all to the hardcore players, and that is where the problem lies.

      • Will says:

        The recent changes to WoW in the last couple of years have shown that Blizzard are actually pretty good about ignoring the hardcore minority and focusing on the money-making casuals.

        • Klay F. says:

          Yet the more Blizzard changes thing the louder and longer the hardcores whine. It leaves me wondering how in the world Blizzard knows to make these changes, because you certainly won’t see any casual players on the official forums.

          EDIT: If Blizzard keeps up these changes to make the game more casual friendly, I could see a scenario where they deem all hardcore players irrelevent and remove raiding from the game entirely since casuals never see it, making a supposed MMO into a mostly single player game where other people have the opportunity to be loud and obnoxious.

          • Veloxyll says:

            I was pretty casual and I saw a fair chunk of Wrath’s content. I missed half of Ulduar, but I casual cleared OS Naxx, TOC and had a few brushes with phase 3 Arthas. Wrath opened up raiding to casuals a LOT (I still see trade chat adverts for more people in Cata too, so I assume raiding has some casual friendlieness.

            • Klay F. says:

              If your talking about Guild invite adverts, that’s strange since all I ever see in that regard are (almost) always appended with “You must have x,y, and z addons. You must also have heroic gear. You must also etc.”

              tl’dr: the vast majority of guilds on my server don’t want to deal with casuals, so they they append all their adverts with huge amounts of qualification.

              EDIT: forgot that a bunch of guild that I’m aware of like to kick you if you miss as much a 2 consecutive raids.

              • Veloxyll says:

                Your server sounds a lot different than mine. Sure some of the guilds have rules like that, but plenty don’t. Guild-XP makes guilds more casual friendly too, since past guild level 5, casuals even give the guild gold when they play.

                Most PuG raids just ask for experience, and a minimum item level and they’ll let you in.

                • Klay F. says:

                  I will admit that my experience is colored somewhat because the only Guilds that are visible are the Guilds that MAKE themselves (annoyingly) visible; i.e.: through Trade chat spam. I found the most laid back group I could possibly find that still raids occasionally and I’m just glad that instance runs are strictly opt-in.

                  I apparently have really bad luck with PUGs. I won’t go into the details of all the things that happened to me JUST TODAY, because I could go on forever about the idiots I attract with the Dungeon Finder. Maybe I’m just expecting to much from those idiots masquerading as human beings.

          • Kdansky says:

            Without raiding, the social casuals who cannot play but want to show off their gear like a new car as a status symbol would probably stop playing. Blizzard makes a ton of money by creating a world where you want a neater, imaginary lawn than the Smiths. Blizzard caters to the “casuals” (those that play for socializing), and tries to force the hardcore players into carrying them through the (raid) content. Example include the LFD-Finder that punishes hardcore players for leaving bad groups, and the fact that groups since Wotlk only need two decent players (tank and healer), with the other three (usually DPS) completely optional. Casuals play DPS mostly, so they can be carried. If they roll healer or tank and are bad at it, they switch roles, since they cannot get through the first boss of any instance.

            It’s really rather impressive how elaborate the money-printing scheme is. WoW endgame wasn’t about being a good game anymore from mid-way through vanilla.

            • Will says:

              I’d argue that if you are successfully selling your product, something about it must be ‘good’ or people wouldn’t buy it.

              Could WoW be better? Absolutely, but the evidence about whether or not WoW is ‘good’ speaks for itself.

            • Veloxyll says:

              I would argue that if you’re getting most of your groups through LFD, you’re pretty casual yourself, since if you were a hardcore player you’d have a guild that would have people on at the same time that also need gear and justice points who you could run for.

              Also: ‘Casual’ tanks will never become decent if you spend all your time complaining about them and quit the first time you wipe. LFD is a million times better than spending 2 hours in trade chat looking for a tank

              Also also – DPS (and their crowd control) are kinda necessary if you want a good instance run, especially since, unlike in WOLK, healer mana can run out.

              If this were the WoW forums I could say more, but I like Shamus’s comments being civil

              • Klay F. says:

                I don’t really see how queuing in the Dungeon Finder makes me a casual player. In the lower levels, even if you’re in a guild, the Dungeon Finder is a necessity because unless you’re in a HUGE guild, trying to find other players in your level range manually sucks. Even if you are in a guild, chances are that all the player in your level range will be spread across the whole of the in-game world.

                Unless your talking about max-level characters (which if you are, sorry, I misunderstood).

                Also: I agree that its kinda sad how DPS is considered so casual. Most casual DPS I find myself playing with can’t play DPS any more than they could (say) heal. Really, is it THAT hard to look at how much threat your generating and break off your attacking for like 2 seconds while the tank gets it back under control?

    • And that approach is easier in Cataclysm. Mages –> Int. Pretty much. Enough hit to quit missing, but Int. DKs –> Str. My Prot Paladin, that has been fun, spellpower/int actually helps. But most of the time, most classes, most specifications, much easier.

      I kind of miss spirit improving crit on my mage.

      However, Meredith, you are probably not making the wrong choice at all. It has gotten much easier, quest rewards are much clearer, wrong choices not as wrong (mastery v. crit v. haste — not that much of a mess if you guess wrong).

      • Trix says:

        The choices come in the secondary stats, not so much the primaries like int. Bliz has sorta implied that you should value increases to primary stats but never have to choose them over the secondaries as they will be on all items you want.

        The only cases where int might compare to say…haste… is when a piece might give slightly less int for some more haste. This sort of thing doesn’t come up too often though, so its more haste vs. crit or something.

  10. Dys says:

    Something I let slide the first time I read it, but I can’t let it go twice. Speed and Haste are NOT SYNONYMOUS.

    There is a reason you do not have a haste-o-meter on your car.

    Speed is an intent-free measure of rate.

    Haste implies some desire to move faster.

    Objects have speed, they do not have haste.
    People have haste.

    I expect a professional could make a stronger argument on this point, but haste is the thing which causes increases in speed.

    • Desgardes says:

      But, in terms of gameplay, there isn’t that distinction. What do those two values mean when applied to your character, a person? I don’t particularly know. I could guess, but guessing, even if I got it right, wouldn’t get me any closer to explaining the whys and hows.

      • Moriarty says:

        Actually weapons are the only items with speed on them, so it would be a measure of time needed to swing the weapon.

        While haste is found on every piece of equipment and makes your character faster (weapon swings, regenerate energy, lower cooldowns, etc).

        so yes, there is a distinction ingame and the game even uses the correct terminology for the seperate effects.

        • psivamp says:

          That is exactly opposite of what would seem to be the more logical attributions for the two terms. I assumed Speed would relate to the overall rapidity of your character and Haste relate specifically to attack speed.

          But, from a DnD standpoint, Speed was how fast you could move and Haste was a spell that increased Speed and gave you an extra attack per round. It’s definitely weird to have near synonyms used for different character stats.

          • Danel says:

            There are other kinds of speed as well, such as movement, though those are less important. Really, weapon speed isn’t as important as all that outside of the top number crunching stuff.

    • Shamus says:

      Uh, since weapons don’t HAVE intent, your description is just as useless as the one that accompanies the stats. Which is to say, “go look it up on the wiki, nub”.

    • Shamus says:

      And now that I think about this more:

      “We must go to the castle with great haste.”

      “We must go to the castle with great speed.”

      I think there’s more than enough overlap in the words to call them synonymous. Barring that, confusing.

      • Dys says:

        The point was more a linguistic one than related to game mechanics. There is a difference between haste and speed in game, and apparently it’s not an obvious one. It’s hard to argue with you from the position of old timer vs new player, since if you did not find it obvious it more or less has to be taken as true.

        My point was more that the definitions of the two word differ in a subtle but significant way.

        “We must go to the castle with great haste.” actually means we must get to the castle precipitously, we must hurry.

        “We must go to the castle with great speed.” actually means we must get to the castle in the shortest possible time.

        I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘More haste, less speed’, but it’s the perfect illustration. Haste is the desire to go faster, speed is simply how fast you are going.

        Now, you could argue that the meaning of a word is actually whatever you believe it to be. That’s not unreasonable from a lay perspective and indeed words do shift their meaning due to popular use, but I’m not sure if you think Blizzard should use words according to their dictionary meaning, or according to what you believe them to mean.

        This whole thing is just a language snark, but it really twists my nerves when I see words misused.

        Finally, is it really so hard to notice that the ‘speed’ stat on your character sheet is actually the number next to ‘speed’ on your weapon, with the ‘haste’ percentage removed from it? Seems really obvious to me, but as I said, new player vs old hand I rather have to take your word.

        • Shamus says:

          “Finally, is it really so hard to notice that the ‘speed’ stat on your character sheet is actually the number next to ‘speed’ on your weapon, with the ‘haste’ percentage removed from it? Seems really obvious to me, but as I said, new player vs old hand I rather have to take your word.”

          You’re making the same mistake Blizzard does. You imagine the other person understands the dozens of things you’re taking for granted.

          Yes, I have speed, my personal stat. And speed, on my weapon. Are they the same? One derived from the other? And then is speed derived from haste, or haste from speed, and how does that impact my bottom line? Does haste include my movement speed? (I know it doesn’t, but I also know that in a lot of other stories and games it DOES, and it’s actually a really easy assumption to make.) Does haste impact casting times? What about speed?

          Without a clear breakdown of what a stat is for and what it means, there’s no way for a player to know what choice they’re making.

          • Trix says:

            Weapon speed (listed on the weapon) is the base swing speed of the weapon (if you had no haste at all).

            The speed listed on the character sheet (don’t remember what its called) is your swing speed with haste effects and character effects included (how fast you are ACTUALLY going to swing).

            Neither stat is too important to keep track of usually. Weapon speed is sometimes important for certain classes (due to abilities that do/don’t depend on it), but the effect is not one that most people need to worry about (ie: most if not all tank weapons are slow anyways).

            Blizzard has gone a long way towards making the effects of these easier to understand with new tooltips and such, but there will always be another level of number-crunching to do. My advice for most people would be to not worry about it too much in casual play, and just understand what stats do/don’t benefit you at all (ie: int on a rogue, or hit on a healer).

        • Desgardes says:

          Now that you say it its easy to see. But I honestly didn’t notice before you said something, because I’d already resigned the numbers to the great mystery of things I don’t understand.

    • Veloxyll says:

      Interestingly, the confusion could be solved with a SINGLE word.

      The word is ATTACK. Blizzard even recognises this in the mouseover tooltip for Haste, where it references Attack speed

      Then when I look at my character sheet, I’d see
      Melee:
      Damage
      DPS
      Attack Power
      Attack Speed
      Haste
      Hit chance
      Crit chance
      Expertise
      Mastery

      And bonus points to Blizzard for the last two terms, despite fulfilling significantly different functions, having synonymous names.
      Though given that Blizzard has been completely unsuccessful in making weapon speed matter (everyone who uses their weapons wants the slowest weapon possible, with the exception of combat rogues who want a fast offhand and possibly Assassination rogues who want 2 fast daggers. Maybe tanks want fast weapons, I haven’t been a weapon using tank so I haven’t looked) it wouldn’t hurt that much to just drop the whole concept as it stands.

      • Klay F. says:

        I would say that weapon speed is relatively important for tanks, sine the faster you hit (or the more consistently your weapon scores a hit), the more threat you generate. However, I couldn’t tell you how important it is, as there seems to be no correct answer. Most tanks can’t even agree whether expertise is important.

        • Veloxyll says:

          Tanks are wierd like that. Plus I miss my prot paladin’s Last Laugh (because it was horribly broken for prot, out threating weapons up to TOC 25, but still!)

          I’d say tanks more have 2 gearing priority lists. Survival and Threat. and up to 26 expertise on your character sheet, Expertise is the best threat stat, being twice as valuable as hit (maybe slightly less than that for Prot pallies and DKs)

          But still, they could have the weapon speed defined by the spec, so if tanks want fast weapons but fury warriors want slow, part of each tree is just setting base attack speeds.

          • Klay F. says:

            Right now I’m leveling a Prot pally and from about level 40-60 he has had an unusually high crit chance (useless for tanks I know, but I just wanted to experiment a bit). In the instance runs where I’m lucky enough to have a sane group, I could swear I was getting criticals with Avenging Shield and Shield of the Righteous something like 40% of every time I used them. Sometimes I could rack up a lucky streak and get 4 or 5 crits in a row. I didn’t really know how much my dps was until I got to Stratholme, and with the Holy damage bonus against Undead I found out I was almost doing more dps than all three other dps players combined. That was pretty fun.

        • Trix says:

          Most tanks want slow weapons now, including warriors. Warriors used to want fast weapons for more rage, but normalized rage means you get the same amount over time no matter how fast you swing. Slower weapon = bigger instant attacks.

          With the removal of on-next-swing attacks too, a faster weapon speed no longer translates to increased threat at all.

  11. LadyTL says:

    I saw the good kind of trade offs in Dragon Age. There was a variety of weapons that often had choices between more damage per hit and faster hits but less criticals, or more critals but slower hitting and less damage. You also added in obvious stat and damage boots. So depending on how you played it might be more beneficial to keep a lower damage weapon or lower armor because it would have much better other effects.

    • Kdansky says:

      Imagine you could choose between the following weapons:

      Critomace: 0-200 dmg per hit.
      Averagoblade: 100 damage per hit.

      All other stats on them are identical. This is the “choice” you suggest.

      But this is also a calculation, and a useless one at that. Let me explain:

      Game A: The mobs have 99 hp. Averagoblade is clearly superior, as it will kill every mob with one hit, while Critomace will sometimes need multiple attacks.

      Game B: The mobs have 101 hp. Critomace suddenly gets a ton better. Averagoblade always needs two attacks, while critomace kills every mob with a 50% on first hit, and a 15/16 chance in two hits. Every now and again it takes you three or even four hits, but on average, you’re way faster than with averagoblade, with ~1.7 attacks versus 2.0 attacks.

      Game C: The mobs have 50’000 hp. Both weapons need an average of 500 attacks, though critomace might get lucky and take a few more or get unlucky and do it in a few attacks less. Bell curve probability dictate though that it will hardly matter. We can expect less than 10% deviance, and both attacks will take roughly 500 attacks. If you add in chance to misses on each, lag, player mistakes and the fact that the mobs really have 50’000’000 hp and there are 25 players whacking at it, there is zero difference between the weapons.

      Game C is WoW (and that is the least degenerate model of the three). Crit is just another way of saying “more dps”, there is no choice involved.

      • LadyTL says:

        The problem then lies with WoW and how it chooses to do it’s enemies because with that level of hit point it doesn’t matter for any of your weapons. Also, not every game has mobs which is why I was not talking about WoW.

        • Trix says:

          Different stats usually find benefits in other class mechanics, like abilities that proc off of critical hits. That sort of thing changes the relative values of different stats to make them more/less beneficial.

  12. Cineris says:

    I don’t play WoW so I don’t know about its particular design idiosyncracies.

    If I had to venture a guess though, I’d say that the WoW developers basically figure — For everyone except high end raiders, the gear question is kind of silly.

    I’d also guess that WoW doesn’t want to encourage non-standard play. Which is to say, a character with an extreme specialization. Variant playstyles are more work for developers to balance, and even then things might not pan out with a desirable result. Let me share an anecdote I’ve heard from D&D 4th Edition.

    Apparently there’s a particular flavor of Barbarian in 4th Edition D&D which is designed to be the kind of guy who keeps fighting no matter what. This class/specialization combo (from what I gather) is really hard to kill, but doesn’t actually do very much, so he’s kind of the ultimate tank. (IIRC he generates himself a lot of temporary hitpoints through his powers, so you can’t even really whittle him down like you can other tanks.)
    The problem with this sort of character is that in order for DMs to bring a moderate challenge to the table for the PC playing this character, they also bring a serious challenge to the table for everyone else. In this example, we need to make our enemies hit harder to actually put a dent in our nigh-unkillable Barbarian. But if we’re hitting characters other than our Barbarian, they’re going to be hurting badly pretty fast because they aren’t designed to be ultra-specialized in tanking.
    Now a tabletop game is actually a lot more flexible than a computer game. In the tabletop game, you can make ad hoc changes to an encounter/instance based on your perception of the party’s strengths and weaknesses. But from the perspective of WoW: If you make a dungeon that requires an ultra-specialized tank, or an ultra-specialized DPS, or an ultra-specialized crowd-controller… You’ve either made one class + itemization build required or you’ve made it obsolete, neither seem like very good options.

    • Will says:

      The thing about specialisation is that it’s specialisation. That means that it’s better at doing what it does than everyone else, but worse at everything else. If you specialise for situation A, then you are going to be better at situation A than everyone else, that’s just how it works.

      The way most DM’s i know get around it in tabletop RPG’s is to mix up the situations; the PC’s might be specialised for situation A, but that’s going to bite them in the ass when they run into situation B, C and D. The problem is though that setting up those variant situations in a game like WoW is much harder than in a tabletop game.

      Blizzard are trying though, as you can see by the much more varied and interesting fights in newer dungeon content; the whole ‘pull group of enemies, rinse, repeat’ mechanic is getting mixed up a bit.

      • Nick Bell says:

        To take Will’s point further, the solution to the nigh indestructible barbarian is to not fight him. Or rather, to kill his much squishier teammates first and foremost. If every one of his companions dies every adventure, the barbarian might start adjusting his build to do focus less on eternal survival and more on helping keep his companions alive.

        • Kdansky says:

          So, you are meta-punishing the other players because they did not create degenerate builds? Not immature at all!

          What you do is ask the person with a character that breaks the game to change his build instead, so everyone can have fun.

          • Will says:

            I don’t know about you, but in the P&P RPGs i run and play in (with the singular and deliberate exception of Paranoia), the players tend to work as a team, unless they have very good reasons not to.

            If you’re playing something lik eD&D where one player is out for himself and doesn’t give a crap about the rest of the party, it doesn’t matter what type of character he rolls up, the player is going to be the problem, not the character.

            • Kdansky says:

              In the games I play, the PCs are independent characters, with their own motivations, urges and wants. Sometimes they agree with each other, sometimes they sacrifice themselves for another and sometimes they try to kill or misdirect each other. Generally they cooperate, but mostly because it is obvious how fighting each other will end in someone’s death, and that makes a long-lasting campaign difficult.

          • Nick Bell says:

            D&D is a team game. Each person has a role to fill to make the team effective. The barbarian is a strike. His role is not to absorb hits; it is to cause damage to the foes. If he is not doing his job, the entire team suffers, in the same way a QB gets sacked because a lineman doesn’t get his block.

            The DMs job is not to tailor each fight to be perfectly toned to each individual. He is to focus on the party as a whole. As such, it is his job to exploit all the weaknesses he can find in the party. If someone isn’t doing their job, that is not his fault. If the striker isn’t doing damage, use the extra life to cause more damage to the party. If a defender isn’t pulling attention with his marks, go after the squishy controller. So on and so forth. The party will adjust to cover their weaknesses or die.

    • Syal says:

      I don’t see why, if his massive Hit Points are temporary, you couldn’t just dispel them. Problem solved, no harder for the guys who aren’t using massive buffs. Or have them get ambushed, and take him down before that stuff takes effect. Or attack him from a ledge, so by the time he can reach them he’s taken so much damage that he’s no better, or worse, than the bow guy in the back who can counterattack on round 1. Or enemies with low HP who can heal automatically, so the hero needs a certain level of damage output to kill them; no trouble for anybody but his non-damage-dealing ass. Or stacking poison effects with every hit. Convince him that survivability isn’t worth the tradeoffs.
      There is no specialization that can’t have a specialized solution, unless it’s better at everything in every situation, in which case it’s not so much specialization as game-breaking.

    • Syal says:

      EDIT: And now my first comment shows up, and I don’t know how to get rid of this one.

    • Blake says:

      Barb has crazy amount of hp?
      Wow these particular kobolds have poison weapons that do a mere 1D6 damages plus HALF YOUR CURRENT HP.

      All of a sudden that huge amount of HP is far less useful than killing the bad guys.

  13. Beardeddork says:

    I was rather surprised when reading the article that it was being narrated by Shamus’ voice in my head.

  14. EmmEnnEff says:

    Shamus, the problem with most of your suggestions, is that it will still not result in meaningful trade-offs. There will still be one set of “Best in slot” gear for PvE encounters, it’s just that you’ve given the number crunchers more work. Tanks will always prioritise better armor, DPS will never prioritise armor over losing offensive power. DPS classes also won’t care about how hard their weapons crit, as long as their over all dps is higher (What that will do is heavily weigh some weapons in favour, or out of favour of certain classes to a great extend… Which is a problem that WoW’s finally fixed in Cataclysm).

    The mana pool reduction item would be a no-brainer top pick for a class like a Warlock, who relies more on regeneration than base mana pool, and pretty awful for a mage.

    You’re going to be hard-pressed to figure out the itemisation for such odd-ball items, that will make them more or less equally attractive to multiple classes and specs. And I’d argue that you’ll find it almost impossible for them to result in meaningful trade-offs in the class’ gameplay (Either the item will be number crunched to be best-in-slot, and the class will be expected to use it… Or not, and it will not be considered worth equipping.)

    As a matter of fact, there already exist items similar to what you suggest – tier sets. Equipping multiples of a set provides you with a (Usually unique) bonus to some of your abilities. That didn’t stop number crunchers from going through and figuring out exactly how many pieces of the set characters should equip to maximise their potential.

    • Shamus says:

      These decisions were all present in Diablo, and they were fun.

      As I said elsewhere in this thread, these decisions are interesting assuming the game is balanced for it. If vanilla WoW can’t possibly handle players making choices, then that’s the fault of the one-dimensional mechanics, not the players. And the point still stands that item selection is three pages of calculus to figure out if A is greater than B. Obtuse and boring.

      • EmmEnnEff says:

        That’s a more accurate criticism. Unlike, say, Guild Wars, or Diablo, the amount of, say, armour that a Mage has in a raid is completely irrelevant – if the raid boss hits a non-tank in the face, they aren’t going to survive. The problem comes from WoW’s one-dimensional combat mechanics, specifically, threat. At first glance, at least.

        The combat mechanics are far from one-dimensional, though. I can’t remember the last time Blizzard put out a raid boss with combat mechanics that consisted of mages standing in one place, mashing their Fireball key.

        Add control, movement, avoiding boss abilities, fight-specific gimmicks, are what make WoW combat interesting. I find the fight mechanics quite engaging – and due to the min-max nature of those encounters, having more bad choices for gearing (As I said above, number crunchers will figure out which items are best-in-slot) won’t make those fights any more interesting.

        You have a different perspective on the game, since the vast majority of the solo leveling content does not rely on correct execution of different combat mechanics (And even in low-level dungeons, they can largely be ignored). When most of what you’re doing is using the same few skills to kill progressively higher level boars, I can see why you want more variety, in the form of gear.

        I’ll be the first to admit that I find the solo content combat boring – but I don’t think more trade-offs with gearing will do anything to change that.

        In short, interesting things that you can do in this game come from the encounters, not gear. It works great for the end-game, not so great for leveling.

        • Veloxyll says:

          Patchwerk would be the first one that comes to mind.

          As for the rest – the idea of the talent re-design was that there would be more than one answer to how to spend your talents. Or, to have INTERESTING choices to make. Do I take 2/2 cauterize, or 2/2 Improved Counterspell. Do I pick up pyromaniac or spend the points somewhere else.

          These are choices. There is no definative right answer, it’s all down to how you want to play. For gearing however, it’s just calculus, whether you;re at level 85 or 25. At the lower levels it’s just “get primary stats + stam. Hit and crit are nice too”
          at 85 it’s just calculus:
          Hit == 17%, Haste >12.5%, then Int > Crit > Mastery/Haste. There are mathematical values to compare the stats, but they are somewhat dymanic, so it’s easier to just get a computer to calculate them. The problem is, there’s not much choice.
          I can’t choose to be a fire mage who spams lots of little spells and be comparable to one who spams big slow fireballs. Each spec has one, and ONLY one way to be played. Gearing is just a way for people to get their character WRONG, not a way for them to be right in a personally distinct way.

          • Richard says:

            Patchwerk is admittedly a hilariously simple boss, but he’s extremely unusual in that regard (and he actually came out back in classic, before Blizzard made very many truly complex encounters).

            A good example of an engaging boss fight is Maloriak, Nefarian’s insane geneticist. He has three different phases that he goes through, with a fourth once he reaches 25% health.

            Up until that last phase, Maloriak will try to heal himself (this effect must be dispelled), cast a big lightning storm that does damage to the raid the longer it goes on (this must be interrupted)… and a spell that summons three of his failed experiments to beat on your tank. He has 18 failed experiments in total, and the summon is interruptable… but when you get him to his last phase, he’ll free any leftover experiments that you didn’t let him summon earlier, resulting in horrible death if you stopped them all.

            His experiments do more damage and take less damage for each other experiment that’s nearby, but this gets suppressed during a “green” phase. So the goal is to have a second tank pick up the adds and start kiting them around once you get nine of them out (since when you have that many, they do WAY too much damage to survive), then start interrupting every subsequent summon until the green phase rolls around, at which point all of the DPS run over, kill the adds as fast as possible, then get back to killing the boss.

            In his “red” phase, he does a massive lava breath that splits the damage between everyone it hits, so people need to all stack up on the tank. However, he also puts a debuff on a player that makes them start taking massive damage if they get hit by the breath, so every time he does that, whoever gets hit by it needs to run out of the stack.

            In his “blue” phase, people need to spread out, because he’ll start lobbing ice at them which does AoE damage. Furthermore, he’ll trap random people in ice blocks. You take a ton of damage when you get frozen. People can break the ice block with one hit, but once it breaks, whoever was trapped takes massive damage AGAIN, so the healers need to top the person off, then call for someone to free whoever get trapped.

            In the green phase, everyone (players, boss, experiments) takes 100% extra damage, so the DPS can actually manage to take the minions down… but the healers will also have a hard time keeping everyone up.

            Once you get the boss to 25% health, he’ll release any experiments that didn’t get free, and start gradually covering the ground with fire that hurts when you stand in it. At this point, you use any damage cooldowns and kill him before the room fills up.

            Oh, and if you don’t kill him withing a certain time limit, he hits an “enrage timer”, and starts 1-shotting people. Almost every boss has something like this to prevent raids from bringing in tons of healers and tons of tanks to avoid ever dying.

            • krellen says:

              I find the “phases” system of raid bosses to not only be overly complicated, but extraordinarily un-fun. I would not use the word “engaging” to describe them at all.

              • Veloxyll says:

                I don’t mind them too much. It beats the old days of 5 minute boss fights being the same few attacks spammed over and over. (or, to reference current events in Spoiler Warning – stupid floaty bosses with stupid cheap attacks >:( ) Because of the way caster resources are balanced, 5-10 minutes usually gives enough room to balance resource management without making it brutally punishing.

                If we compare that fight with Patchwerk, it’s more interesting to have to make the player respond to the changing environment instead of purely focusing on getting your rotation just right. (Patchwerk was literally 3 minutes standing still spamming your damaging or healing attacks on the same target)

                @Richard: I mentioned Patchwerk in response to MNF asking what was the last pure standup boss fight Blizzard released. Saurfang would be if he didn’t make his adds and not allow the use of AOE for tanks.

                • Klay F. says:

                  I agree with you regarding the phase system with bosses, this system demands that you research the fights before hand plus it demands that there be good teamwork. For raiding, its a particularly good system because the people who are raiding are the people who actually care how well they play with others. The tank-and-spank boss fights you get at lower levels get pretty old pretty fast.

                  I personally don’t see anything wrong with having to know about the fight beforehand, this is partially what guilds are for. Which brings to mind the problem with gearing that Shamus brings up. If you find a decent guild, pretty much every question you could ever have regarding gear and specs will be answered by your guildmates, this requires absolutely no use of third party manuals and extra research time. This was the way it was for me, and I personally never use WoWpedia or WoWwiki unless its to look up unimportant details for the purposes of conversation.

                • krellen says:

                  Having to know the fight beforehand really destroys the RP feel, the feeling that you are a hero taking on some epic threat. It turns you into just a guy doing a job.

                  Of course, given the content (as we’ve seen in Shamus Plays), it’s not like the game’s delivering that anyway.

                • Klay F. says:

                  I’ll give you the RP bit, but NOT having to know the fight beforehand is what turns pretty much all 5-mans into tank-and-spank fights, and THAT is not entertaining in the least. Poo-Throwing Monkeys can mash numbers on their keyboard and win a tank-and-spank fight.

                  However I will disagree with you, because I can say from experience that when you get 10/25 competent people together who know what they need to be doing, downing a boss in heroic mode is FUN. For me, that sense of working together is rewarding.

      • Sephyron says:

        Im not sure how much of theese choices that really existed in Diablo, or atleast Diablo II. There where pleanty of best setups depending on the purpose of a character. Often numbercrunched to the extream on one forum or another to give you information about exactly which items, skills and charms to use for that specific char build with informaiton about tradeoffs. For example Meph MF sorcs usually had 1 weapon/offhand set for fcr (faster cats rate) breakpoint to teleport faster and deal damage and another to swich right before the kill to get extra MF(Chance to get magical items).These gearsets where usually loaded with MF to the exakt point where it gave highest possible chance of uniques per minute. Baalrun sorcs on the other hand had a compleatly different skill and gear set for fastes possible Baal kill and teleport speed with high Lightningresist to survive large Ghost packs. And so on.

        Sure there was choices if you wanted 1 char to do a bit of everything but for Min/Maxing there where numbercrunched “Best” setups for everything even in Diablo II.

        • Pickly says:

          Not to mention the attribute system itself almost always had an obvious min-max solution (“Get enough strength for equipment, no dex, energy to 50 mana, rest into vitality”).

          From most games I’ve seen, attribute system in general (using strength, vitality, spirit, etc.), have pretty much been Noob traps, with obvious min-max solutions, so I’m somewhat surprised when they continue to be used, and looked for.

          • Robyrt says:

            Demon’s Souls is a nice counterexample. There are only 2 stats with a “soft cap,” and good weapons which scale to every other stat, so you are just as likely to see 40 Luck as 40 Strength.

        • I remember Diablo II/LOD having best choices, and few trade offs. Now I ran an Amazon, an Assassin, a Sorcerer and a Druid/Werewolf before I got bored. A barbarian for the free trial. And a necromancer. There were best minions, best equipment for minions, best level of difficulty to get the minion on, etc.

          Trade-offs did not really occur for those characters. I’m sure they would have for others.

  15. Khizan says:

    Shamus listed four types of choices in his article. Let’s examine them.

    1) Ranged weapons with better distance but less damage.
    2) Melee weapons that deliver better damage per second but cause fewer (or less severe) critical.
    3) Armor that reduces incoming damage but slows your own attack speed.
    4) Items that will boost your magic potency but reduce your mana pool.

    To use the Extra Credit terms, choices 2 and 4 are really calculations; people will math out the optimal setting soon enough, and as more DPS is always preferable to less DPS, one of these choices is definatively a “bad choice”.

    Choice 3 actually exists now, in a way; it’s tank/PvP gear enchanted for stamina. DPS will never use this, because this is also a calculation. You either need the survivability to win, so it’s necessary, or you don’t, so it’s a complete waste of DPS. So let’s modify it to “Tanks have armor that will drastically increase their survivability while also drastically decreasing the threat they put out.” There. That’s an interesting choice, in a way.

    So let’s say that 1 and the newly modified 3 become choices. Suddenly, the optimal group composition for Boss X who has a lot of AOE becomes “22 ranged DPS, 1 tank, 2 healers”, where the reduced DPS is made up for the fact that you dropped 1 tank and 3-5 healers for extra DPS. Guilds are going to start benching melee DPS for ranged or ranged alts, especially early on when you’re fighting for realm/world firsts as a matter of prestige. Serious guilds may do this the “real” way after a bit, but many casual guilds may go months doing this fight the “easy” way. You may actually see raid guilds looking for apps like “rogue who has a mage alt”. This change has forced healers to change specs or get benched, and it’s benched all the melee. It’s not good design for the “easy way” to do an encounter to lock out a ton of players. Got to fix this.

    So adds spawn. This means you need another tank. The adds need killed. And that tank and that DPS will need heals, because the adds AOE enough so that you can’t just add one extra healer because the DPS is taking damage, too. Now you have something for melee to do and you’ve kept your offtank and healers around. Excellent. But what happens is that their raid goes to maybe 20 ranged DPS, 2 tanks, and 3 healers, because the ranged can still DPS the adds so you still don’t need melee who take damage and who can’t hit the boss between adds due to the AOE. Crap. Still need to fix it. So the adds need DPS that is higher than the increased range guys can do. Now you have a reason to bring melee, because the decreased ranged DPS will still eat damage, so there’s no reason to not bring melee.

    But this means you lose boss DPS by switching out ranged DPS for the add group. Now you can’t really beat the enrage timer by letting your ranged sacrifice damage for range. So you have to do it the “hard way” after all. That is, unless your add tank has chosen Choice 3 and can hold the adds for longer, meaning that add DPS can be slower. So now you can go back to “1 normal tank, one modified tank, 3 healers, 20 ranged.” So now you need to fix it for this…

    Now design every raid encounter in the game based around keeping all the interesting choices as viable options in a significant portion of the encounters, if not every encounter. Right now, that’s 14 raid fights. Done? Ok, now scale all those back for a 10 man raid rather than a 25 man raid. It just turns out that giving players “interesting choices” just isn’t a viable option unless you drastically change everything about WoW.

    • Shamus says:

      As I’ve said about a dozen times now, I was talking about the first eighty levels of the game, which many people seem to have forgotten about.

      • Dys says:

        Is it possible to have mechanics from 1-max which differ significantly from the end game, I wonder? How much does or should the one affect the other…

      • X2-Eliah says:

        If many people have forgotten about it, and only you and a few others care, perhaps your view of the game is the one that’s skewed and not theirs?

        • acronix says:

          If a majority claims X, that doesn´t make X right.

        • krellen says:

          People that talk about the game tend a lot (such as those that use the forums) to be the “end-gamers” who milk the system at its top level. Statistic after study after report, however, proves that these players are the vast minority of any game (not just WoW), and rarely bring up the issues and concerns of the player base at-large.

        • Shamus says:

          Yes, my view is skewed because I’m PLAYING THOSE PARTS OF THE GAME.

          If they “don’t matter” or don’t need to be fun, then get rid of them. We can all roll max-level characters and play the “real” game.

          If I’m going to spend months doing something, then I’m going to point out obvious stupidity when I see it. If fixing this problem breaks the game elsewhere, then the fault is Blizzard’s.

          • X2-Eliah says:

            Yes, you are playing it, that’s the thing – as long as you are playing it, Blizzard, in relation to you, has done everything sufficiently. If you were not playing, then they would have not done enough.

            Of course, its way oversimplified, and with 11 million registered accounts, can’t realistically be brought down to personal level, but the matter of fact is still that “everyone” plays Wow, there aren’t any mass quits in the extent of even 2% of userbase, so there’s no incentive for Blizzard to work on redesigning anything.

            To put it bluntly, as long as they keep getting your money, your arguments are ignored.

            • Veloxyll says:

              But as soon as they STOP getting his money, his complaints are STILL ignored, and less valid. Part of the reason that WoW keeps going and going is that Blizzard are continually developing it. They’re tweaking balance issues all the time, trying to keep the game interesting to a wide variety of people, so why would comments from someone about the recently redesigned levelling experience be invalid?

              As for Blizzard not bothering to work on redesigning anything uh
              What was Cataclysm? Talent trees re-built. Zones and quest flow completely rebuilt in some cases. Sounds like there were plenty of issues Blizzard found that needed addressing within the levelling aspect of the game. So why WOULDN’T Blizzard be interested in going “hey, veteran gamers from other genres have trouble understanding our stats ingame, is there an issue here that we can resolve, or is it just a necessary part of the game”?

              • Veloxyll says:

                Append: Also, and this is a point I, myself, have forgotten, the issue Shamus has isn’t that there’s that many different stats to balance – it’s that there’s different stats to balance that are confusing and neither intuitive, nor well explained by the game.

                If you didn’t have Haste and Mastery/Expertise (or if they had better names – The stat ‘Haste’ increases your character’s hastyness, reducing the time between attacks and spellcasts. Haste would be sufficiently descriptive if there wasn’t also a stat called ‘Speed’) then it wouldn’t be SUCH a big issue, but it wouldn’t hurt to have each stat given a bit more description in game, possibly via tutorial tips, possibly via tooltips.
                Sure to get the most out of my character, maybe I should have to visit the Wiki, but I should be able to PLAY my character just based on what I’m told in-game.

              • Steve C says:

                Except the redesign of Cataclysm felt like it was more about developer ego than it did about improving the game. Years ago the designers working on it had one idea. Later, new designers had different ideas so the old content had to go. Ego, not improvement.

                Cataclysm doesn’t seem better or worse than what it replaced. It only feels ever so slightly different. It’s like having the same meal with a different dipping sauce. That’s all fine and good but Blizzard put an ungodly amount of man hours into re-doing the world. Experiencing the new content for several months now and I’d rather they had spent those man hours putting more new stuff in rather than change for change’s sake.

                I’ve been playing for years and it feels like it was both unnecessary and a wasted opportunity. Note that I’m only referring to the reworking of old material. The new 80-85 stuff is new as to be expected in an expansion.

                • Klay F. says:

                  See, this is where you opinions divert from new players, and players like Shamus, these players HATED the slog/grind/treadmill of the lower levels. I will expect that you would agree that raiding is fun, and Blizzard seems to agree with this. Thats why they made it easier than ever to get to the level cap.

                  It is most definitely not change for the sake of change. Making the quest-lines make an inkling of sense is not something I would call “feeding one’s ego”. As a raider, its easy to only care about whats going on in the endgame, but there are several million other people that do not care one whit for what all the max level characters are doing.

                • Trix says:

                  If you think the new 1-60 progression was not that big a change from the old, you must be doing/seeing something wrong.

                  For once, leveling 1-60 is actually fun, quick, and interesting (far from the absolute chore it used to be).

                • Steve C says:

                  I don’t know why you took my comment to mean that I had a problem with the leveling speed or something. No. I was agreeing with everything Shamus already said.

                  Fixing stuff like the complexity in stats. They redid every single menu in the game. Why not change the tooltips to be meaningful? For example: Quote- “Health: Maximum health. If your health reaches zero, you will die.” My response to that is duh. They could have at least mentioned stamina. And under stamina how many hp you get per point of stamina.

                  And the quests do NOT make sense. That’s kinda the point of the entire Shamus Plays series. They could have changed that Eastvale logging camp bear quest easily. Have a few npcs actively fighting off bears. Have a couple of dead peons next to some lumber. Have the questgiver say something like “We can handle these bears. Go track down ones that are harder to find so they don’t surprise us later.”

                  I would bet money that group of grown adults at Blizzard sat in a room and discussed every single existing quest in a meeting and evaluated it. And still they missed the easy to fix stuff that goes into the basic text files.

          • Danel says:

            Given the way that Blizzard massively redesigned the early-game content for Cataclysm, they clearly agree with you that it matters.

            Certainly, something that explains what gear is good and what the various effects are would be useful.

          • WarlockofOz says:

            In my opinion solo and small group content is likely more important to the long term health of the game than raiding content. I’ve made a lot more friends in 5-mans (albeit before automatic cross-realm groups and short, easy dungeons) than I have in raid guilds.

          • Vipermagi says:

            Let’s take a different game for an example of neat design. Guild Wars.
            A PvPer doesn’t really care about killing three waves of insects to help out some farmers (for the curious, “A Prescription for Conscription”). Instead of leveling new characters to level 20, they can just generate a max level character right off the bat, and even get some skills unlocked by default. By PvPing, you gain faction points, which you can use to unlock gear and skills.
            It’s still advisable to PvE to unlock some skills and equipment, though. It’s much easier to save some gold for skills than it is to get faction for them, and item unlocks are free if you find them on a weapon/armor.

      • Kdansky says:

        Getting a character to max level: A few months at worst/best.
        Playing on max level: Six years.

        I believe the design should matter to the latter. And as said before: Gear choices from 1 to 85 is purely an exercise. If you can read the number that tells you which level a gear piece has, and if you can distinguish items for your class (spell stats for casters, agi for hunter and rogue, str for all others) then you are choosing about 99% perfect gear.

        Gear really does not matter much ever, as Gevlon proved when they ran Ulduar in ilevel 200 blues.

        • Shamus says:

          “My part of the game is more important than YOUR part of the game!”

          The game is about leveling!

          The game is about raiding!

          The game is about PvP!

          You can argue with the other two groups if you like. But I will always insist that a game should be fun and mechanics should make sense, no matter that you’re playing.

          • Agree. Especially since a huge part of the expansion is to encourage people to create and level Worgen and Goblin characters.

          • Kdansky says:

            I am not arguing that the status quo is anything but broken. I am just arguing that the brokenness is somewhere completely different. You basically tell me that the pink colour is unhealthy when eaten, and I tell you that there is not pink food to begin with.

            WoW has broken mechanics to the bone.

            • Trix says:

              You have to admit that, despite its flaws, WoW is quite a developed and fun game to play.

              After all, no MMO is perfect…and Blizzard IS continuously trying to improve things.

  16. Athan says:

    “But, that would break PvP!”

    So f’ing what ? I’m so sick of all the WoW tweaks that change PvE play, but were obviously because of some PvP issue. Blizzard needs to just fork the code once and for all between PvE and PvP, grrr.

  17. Jarenth says:

    Shamus: I’m getting the feeling that a lot of your conflict stems from the fact that you play under the assumption that the levelling game (the ‘eighty-five levels of content before raiding’) is as important a part of the game as the end-game raiding and PvP. Which, you know, is an understandable point of view, and one you’d hope the developers share. But I don’t think Blizzard has the same ideas as you vis-à-vis the salience of levelling.

    Since Cataclysm hit, I’ve been levelling a few alts on the side, and one thing I’ve noticed is that levelling is a lot more streamlined now than it was back in Vanilla WoW. There’s no open-world group quests (that I’ve run into), and none of the quests I’ve done so far were in any way significantly challenging. Conaequently, I’ve never felt that the gear I picked up on those levels really mattered. With levelling speeds and content progression as it is now, I’ll outlevel all decent quest rewards and instance drops in about a day or two.

    The point I’m trying to make here is… a lot of people have commented on how your idea for gear diversion wouldn’t make much of a difference in raiding, as there’ll still be a ‘best’ answer for any situation; and I recall seeing a commnent of yours somewhere here that you weren’t looking at raiding, but at all the content before that. But the reason I think there’s not really any significant choice there is that Blizzard is treating the levelling aspect of the game in the same way the hardcore players are: it’s nothing more than an annoying time-sink, something you plow through as quickly as possible in order to get another alt to max level. The changes Cataclysm brought in levelling and questing seem to drive that point home for me even more.

    You want levelling and questing to have meaningful choices and tradeoffs, but it seems Blizzard would rather you speed trough that stuff as quickly as possible, so you can get into the cool new dungeons they designed.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      I was about to post pretty much the same thing, incidentally – that most of the game is the end-level content, and the levelling and the quests contained in that is a small portion of the whole, and not held of any importance nowadays.

      And, really, reading through most of the Wow-player comments, I can’t help but feel that max level content is the games real meat and bones, with 1-80(whatever) being just an introductory phase good for a month, at best.

    • Shamus says:

      In that case, the game is idiotic and broken. Leveling to 80 for the first times takes a LONG time. And yet in all those hours they teach you NOTHING that you need to know to play raids.

      And in any case, the gear mechanics are still nonsense. If raiding is the most important part of the game, then WHY DON’T THEY TEACH YOU HOW TO DO IT? Haste / speed. Proficiency / expertise. Strength / attack power. No explanation. Go read a wiki.

      • EmmEnnEff says:

        You are quite correct. There’s not much depth to the leveling experience. Should that be fixed? If you ask a player like you, it should. If you ask someone like me, It’s not really an issue – for me. Would fixing it pull more people into the game? Possibly. Is Blizzard doing anything about it? Not really – they’d rather streamline the quests, and give experience boosts, so that players steamroll through the leveling content faster. They’ve got their hands full balancing raiding and PvP as-is.

        The game does try a little to teach you how to raid – there’s a few quests that Cataclysm added (“Hey, this is a dragon, he’s about to breathe on you, hide behind a pillar!”), but that’s about it. I do think the new static tooltips give you all the information you need (Although a lot of the conclusions you make from it are not obvious.)

      • poiumty says:

        Raids are essentially dungeons, but harder and with more people. If you want to learn to play raids, play dungeons. Then when you reach 85, play heroics. Those have the “harder” element.

        As for the meaning of stats,
        1. there’s tooltips that show you how much damage you’re going to do, how much crit chance you get, how much damage you mitigate, your total mana regen and so on.
        2. if you’re a casual raider, you won’t necessarily have to min/max. There ARE things you need to know that Blizzard has omitted to tell you (like “you have a 17% chance to miss a boss type monster”) but the question of “which item is better” can be mostly solved by looking at the itemlevel and the color of the item. You can enable itemlevels in the options menu.
        For more interesting questions like “does a fast or slow weapon work better for me”, or “do i gain more from crit rating or haste” you need to look at your talents and figure it out yourself. This is part of why raiding is fun. Mathcraft only comes into play when you want to squeeze that extra 1% dps out of your itemset, something which most people do regardless because why not. But no one forces you to go read a wiki.

        • ehlijen says:

          So the default view is lot’s of barely explained stats and an overall power level of an item is an optional extra info that can be displayed is what you’re saying?

          Sounds the wrong way around.

          But the important thing is: if they game wants to pretend to have complexity by having all these stats, it should also offer a way to understand them. Why is haste different from speed and which should I boost? Is 10% block better than 5% parry? If this info cannot be learned in the game and as many say is not important until you raid, why bother having it at lower levels?

          • poiumty says:

            “So the default view is lot’s of barely explained stats and an overall power level of an item is an optional extra info that can be displayed is what you’re saying?”
            No, the stats are always displayed. Itemlevel is a technicality Blizzard introduced because people were using mods to display it anyway. If you’re lazy, it’s an easy way to gauge item worth.

            “But the important thing is: if they game wants to pretend to have complexity by having all these stats, it should also offer a way to understand them.”
            And there IS a way to understand them. The particularities of each stat don’t matter as much while levelling, because levelling is designed to be accessible. If we’re talking high-end content, getting to understand the stats and which one is best for you is one of the game’s fun parts. If you’re arguing that “i should just be told which stats to pick”, then that wouldn’t be good game design as it throws decision-making and thinking for yourself out the window. People who want to put effort in what they do start taking out a calculator and figure the intricacies out for themselves. The wiki didn’t get those numbers from the devs, you know.
            This is like saying Blizzard should provide you with a build order for your favourite race in Starcraft 2 because you’re too cool to go read a wiki/experiment for yourself (or copy pro players) and find out which order works best for you. It’s the exact same thing in WoW: you look at your tooltips, find out how much your DPS has changed, find out how much crit chance you gain for every 1 crit rating, calculate that into how much dps you do etc etc. The way to understand them isn’t accessible nor easy. It’s not meant to be. Raiding is competitive high-end content for a reason, and levelling is easy enough to just go with what you think is better.

            “why bother having it at lower levels?”
            Because it’s not useless, because some people care about those stats and because no one forces you to look at it. If you’re too much of a casual player to care, just pick the shield that looks better – you’ll have lower defense but you’ll still be able to get max level.

            Really, Shamus – you’re a D&D player. Did you find it vexing that they didn’t make a tutorial for how THAC0 worked and you had to go read the manual instead? Or do you consider a wiki to be some sort of inaccessible document which in no way relates to a book?

            • Klay F. says:

              This is exactly the reason I never got into DnD, “I have to read how many books to understand this game? No thank you, I’ll just go play a video game.”

              • Blake says:

                I’ve played lots of pen and paper RPGs, can’t say I’ve ever read the books that go with them.
                You need someone who understands it then most of it you find out as it becomes relevant.
                Getting someone to outline the basics is little more complex than asking for the rules to a board game.

                Any time we have a new player in our group we tend to ask for a general description of what they want to play (caster or sword guy) then hand them a standard character and tell them when and how to roll dice when it becomes relevant.

                It really is pretty easy to pick up.

              • Will says:

                Actually the usual way to learn P&P RPGs like D&D is to join a group with a DM or player who is willing to teach you.

                I persued rules-fu mastery in D&D and Savage Worlds on my own time; i learned everything i needed to know to play a solid game in my first couple of sessions from the other players.

            • Shamus says:

              Uh, there’s a manual for THAC0 – there is no manual for item stats. “Look it up on the wiki” is actually being very generous. Actually, you need to “look up the argument between hardcore players talking jargon about stats that were made irrelevant 2 patches ago”. And THAC0, while a terrible system, was far, far, far better than this soup of undocumented gibberish.

              Again, you’re saying item gear needs to be stupid, confusing, and a waste of time at low levels because it’s interesting and deep at high levels. This is simply, obviously not true.

              • poiumty says:

                No, i’m saying itemization is interesting at any level, but you can safely ignore most of it until you reach the endgame if you find it too confusing.

                And wowwiki covers many up-to-date definitions on pretty much all you need, with little arguing going on. It’s very much like a manual.

                • ehlijen says:

                  The difference between looking up THACO in the book you are already using to make characters and play the game with and looking it up in a 3rd party book that you may or may not know how to find is that the company that sold the manual delivered an incomplete product.

                  If these stats are meant to have a point, they fail at being comprehensible, forcing players to resort to third party guides and apparently patches (if players came up with the idea of showing item levels before blizzard did, as you said, that’s just telling as to how badly they did this) to discover things the game should have already told them. I’m not talking about ‘how to level and gear up perfectly’ but ‘how can I tell whether I’m making good leveling/gearing chocies?’.

                  If these stats are meant to be ignored until high levels, they fail by existing and confusing players who don’t know what to ignore and filter out until they learn that. And the game doesn’t teach that, once again leaving it up to third party sources to tell players how their entertainment product works.

                  Basically we’re talking about the equivalent of a car being delivered with the handbrake underneath the right back seat and no note of that in the handbook. It comes disengaged, so you don’t need to worry about it until you reach your destination, and once someone tells you where it is you know where it is, so it’s not so bad, right?

                • Jarenth says:

                  And then you get into a heated discussion with the guy two cars over about whether or not handbrake speed decrease coëfficient is a more important determinant of car performance than axel rotations per second or fuel consumption vector.

              • Mina says:

                It’s not even deep at high levels. You’re still just crunching a whole lot of math to get to what would be the obviously better option if it weren’t being obscured by all the needless complexity.

                • poiumty says:

                  Let’s not use hyperbole, please. There isn’t a “whole lot of math” going on where i could just look at 2 items for a few seconds and figure out which is better. There’s some math in figuring out how to integrate said item into your own set with decisions on sockets and enchants, but it’s really just addition and subtraction. Calculus and other things come in when calculating the absolute best course of action with added variables like rotation and encounter specifics, and it’s not needed, it’s just something that people do because they want to do it, and everyone just takes their results and copies them anyway. But on the itemization front, things aren’t as hard/complex as you make them seem.

                  In response to ehlijen: Blizzard can’t release a book on stats because they constantly change them, even mid-expansion. That book would quickly become obsolete, and releasing it separately from the product would be… silly, as you can just go check the wiki instead. Same argument for a tutorial or something, you’re just stubborn in considering the internet as a source of information. Stats are explained every time they change them on official forums and the like, the wiki just gets all the data into one place.
                  Two more points: one, because some people said that stats matter less, everyone understood that stats are completely pointless until level 80 and are better off not existing. STOP SAYING THAT. Not only would a bunch of stats out of nowhere be confusing for the level 80 player who has spent the last few months without them, they are important to other aspects of the game. Solo questing until max level may be the only important part for you, but you can’t be arrogant and propose changes that would screw over the rest of the game (i won’t get into detail for the sake of post length, but: twinks, levelling through pvp, group content).
                  Two, in response to “how can I tell whether I’m making good leveling/gearing chocies?”: deciding between 10 block rating and 6 dodge rating isn’t immediately apparent, but don’t think it’s impossible. The tooltips for each rating tell you how much each stat changes, so if you try both items on you’ll know that it’s (for example) 10% chance to block vs 2% dodge. No doubt one’s better than the other, but THIS (not being made evidently clear which is better from the start) is what makes itemization broken and confusing? If yes, then that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

                • Will says:

                  It would be nice if when you moused over a piece of gear it popped up a ‘comparison’ window which detailed the final stat changes (to crit %, block %, dps etc) that will occur if you equip this item in comparison to the item you are currently wearing.

                • poiumty says:

                  That’s what Rating Buster does. As i said, there will probably be something like that in the future, as Blizzard likes implementing the most popular add-ons in their core UI package.

      • Jarenth says:

        Yeah no, I agree with you there, it’s rubbish. Personally, I tend to enjoy levelling and questing much more than the endgame. But I’ve honestly never levelled more than óne guy to whatever the level cap is at the moment, because Blizzard has taken the approach of turning levelling into a simple exp treadmill.

        And while I’m hoping they’ll adress the ‘Want to raid, read the wiki’-situation new players are currently in — this is Blizzard, after all, they’re usually good at what they do — the fact remains that at this point in time, the game tells you pretty much nothing. Because it’s built around the assumption that you’ve all done it before.

        EDIT: And even then, I hope you’re ready to enjoy poring through countless pages of discussion on stat weight and importance. Should I gem for haste, crit rating, mastery? Who knows? Have even more fun reading the wiki!

        • Klay F. says:

          If you have questions regarding what to gem for, for the love of God, don’t ask the forums. You’ll be flamed to the ends of the earth no matter what you do.

          • Veloxyll says:

            Thankfully on the class specific forums blizzard are finally stickying player created guides, which are usually decent aggregations of the mind numbing tedium that would be involved in finding all the information for yourself.

            What’d be nice is if Blizzard made the ratings start showing up at certain levelling points and gave a bit of a description. Like at level 10, primary stat/stam items start showing up (and int/spirit for healers I guess). At 20 crit starts appearing. At 40 hit enters the field. At 60 haste shows up, and Spellpower can start appearing on weapons. At 70 Expertise shows up, and Mastery shows up at 80 (okay, Mastery in fact DOES show up at 80)

            Edit: Dodge, block and parry can show up in much the same way, each tanking stat starting to appear after a certain point

            That way, just like how you get spells and abilities, you have time to get used to what stats do, instead of just BLORT HERE’S A PILE STATS GOOD LUCK FIGURING THIS OUT.
            Sure there are still optimal gearing solutions, but people new to the game get enough information to figure out how to assess the value of items to them without being too overwhelmed.

            • poiumty says:

              Crit, haste and hit rating only appear much later on though. You could probably get, like, a ring at level 14 that gives you 2 crit rating, but overall you won’t see many items with those stats. There are way fewer stats you have to look out for if you’re low-level.

              • Danel says:

                It’s not to the extent that it was, though – all of the secondary stats start appearing much earlier now.

                But, yes, to a certain extent, they are introduced gradually – the first gear is common with just armour, all the way up. It was just be good if they explained at that point what they were, what they did, and what is probably the best choice for each class/spec.

      • Kdansky says:

        They don’t teach you, because only the top 1% of players have any interest in learning, the others will happily play badly even if someone or something pointed out that cloth with +spirit is not good gear for a rogue. Read some greedy goblin blog to understand how WoW really works and why people pay so much money for it.

        • Shamus says:

          You just said in another comment that they should focus their attention of the raiding game because PvE is only a couple of months, and raiding is years. But now you’re saying that raiding is only 1% of the players.

          So which is it? If raiding is the main part of the game, they should teach us how to do it. If raiding is only a tiny part of the player base, then why should Blizzard design the game around them?

          I don’t care who is bigger or feels a greater sense of entitlement. I just maintain that the game should be fun. And I believe this us vs. them mentality is pointless anyway. I’m sure the game could be designed sensibly for both.

          • poiumty says:

            High-end content is split into PvE and PvP respectively. PvE gets focused on raids while PvP gets focused on arenas (and battlegrounds to a somewhat lesser extent). The 1% of the playerbase refers to the hardcore raiders who “mathcraft” and perfect their builds, who also get all the server/world firsts on raid boss kills (it’s also hyperbole, there’s a lot more players than that who are interested in learning).

            The 1-85 game teaches you both how to raid AND how to pvp, primarily by teaching you how to play your character: skill rotations, playstyle, intricacies of skills that you can only see with extended repetition. These are the fundamentals of both types of high-end content; you are definitely going nowhere without them. Second, remember that these two activities, while being the main focus of the game, are entirely optional. Low-level battlegrounds teach you about pvp and pvp-based team play (target focusing, crowd control, objective-focused gameplay, the pvp potential of your spells). Early dungeons provide pve and pve-based team play knowledge (pulling aggro, keeping aggro, using CC, pulling monsters, your role in the team, other classes’ role in the team, kill order and so on). So yes, the game does teach you these things, but it doesn’t hold your hand – it lets you choose what you like best.

            As you can see, in both of these, items serve as more of a benchmark than a choice. Better items means you perform better, they don’t offer wildly different gameplay changes. I’d argue that it would be confusing if they did – if you want to argue otherwise, then I understand, but remember that 1-85 solo content is meant as a tutorial and lore trip.

            • Veloxyll says:

              I’d argue that it doesn’t teach you much at all. When I was taught maths all those years ago, they did something important to teach me, something WoW isn’t doing – they showed me HOW things worked. WoW at the moment just goes “here are some stats, have fun figuring out what’s important”; that’s not teaching me how to play, that’s giving me a puzzle and seeing if I can figure it out. One of those wierd puzzles with no real edge pieces so you’re never quite sure if you’ve gotten it right.

              The beginner tooltips Blizzard added give a rough idea of what the spell or ability is meant to do and how it’s meant to be used. The questing experience was adjusted to make it more logical and make quests flow better. Why are you so opposed to stats getting the same treatment. If, as many comments have suggested, stats don’t matter pre-endgame then don’t put them on gear! Just have a class specific tutorial quest on gearing that is all “stack agi as a rogue to do more deeps, get some stam so that when things deeps unto you, you don’t go splat.”

              • poiumty says:

                For me, the puzzle was fun and engaging. Say, your spec relies on attacks that do lots of extra bonus damage – obviously faster weapons are better, and haste will matter more as a stat. If crit affects that extra bonus damage, then it matters more. If not, it matters less. Missing a boss also nullifies the chance to crit – therefore, hit matters most of all stats until you get that 100%. But other classes have +hit buffs, so you have to take them into account. I don’t know, if that isn’t fun for you, maybe you should try PVP.

                I’m not against an optional tutorial explaining some specifics, i’m sorry if it came out that way. I just meant to say taking your hand and walking through what items are best for your spec is a spreadsheet’s job, not Blizzard’s. The second point was about gameplay decisions within items – in a way, they exist in wow, but such decisions are futile in an MMO where everyone will just pick what’s best for their class/spec, so much that Blizzard is now designing items with that in mind.

                I’d love it if a dev would come here and explain the reasoning behind the progress of itemization in the game, because i can’t. Being an experienced top-end player however, i’ve seen enough to be very sure it isn’t as simple as people think.

                • Trix says:

                  A nitpick, but hit buffs from other players don’t really exist anymore to my knowledge. They wanted people to stop having to continually swap out gear and such just for different group makeups.

          • Kdansky says:

            That is not a contradiction at all. People spend most of their time at max level, but very few ever graduate to “real” raiders who do content at release time, and not six months later when you get a +30% dps/hp buff. Just because people are playing badly does not mean they are not doing it. Most just spend their time endlessly farming stuff, with no real objective in mind, and doing old heroics or raids which they overgear already. But at that point, at max level and with epics, the gear does not matter to anything except raids (you don’t need any gear to kill a mob 40 levels below you in two shots) and PVP (you seriously need the right gear for that), so it might as well make sense for the late game.

            It is not so much designed for what the players think they need, but rather, for what the players could possibly need without knowing so. And to boot: Stats on gear are a formality anyway. You can do even high end content with horrible gear, and if you play badly, top tier epics won’t save you from falling off cliffs and falling to your death. WoW gear is cosmetics.

            • poiumty says:

              Don’t say that, you’ll bring up another world of confusion for the people here who haven’t played WoW. Gear, like i said, is a benchmark that dictates how far you can climb. Some encounters are impossible without having at least x members with tier y gear.

              • Kdansky says:

                Look up “Undergeared” by Gevlon. Ulduar cleared in blues.

                • Trix says:

                  Ulduar isn’t the best indication IMO, but perhaps.

                  Some instances will have a gear check fight (hello Patchwork), wherein if you don’t have the health/dps/healing power, you simply cannot win (just by the numbers).

                  Certainly the low end of such fights depends a bit on player skill, but you can’t do X dps without some amount of attack/spell power.

        • Abnaxis says:

          I would argue that just because only 1% of the players are willing to endure troll infest forums and nigh-endless blind experimentation, that doesn’t mean a substantial portion wouldn’t appreciate and use the information if you just, you know, gave it to them in a explicit documentation source, rather than an unofficial soup of heresay and pontification

          • Kdansky says:

            Sadly, I have lost my faith in humanity (or rather: WoW-players) a long time ago. When you tell someone that their spirit/int ring does nothing on a level 79 rogue, they will tell you “STFU noob! I play 4 fun! ololz”

            • Trix says:

              Least now the primary stats now say “Gives no benefit to your class” if that is the case. Secondary stats like hit do not, but technically everyone can benefit from them somehow (even casters can swing a melee weapon).

      • Sanguine says:

        They don’t try to teach people who are leveling how to raid because many of them would fail, and stop playing/paying.

    • Blake says:

      If it’s just a time-sink, why don’t they just add an option to spawn a max level character at will?
      Maybe require people to have leveled normally at least once so they know how the game works but if it’s just a time sink it should be cut.

      Also how many hours would you say levelling a character takes?
      I’d have maybe 2 hours a week I could play.

      • Klay F. says:

        As many others have said before, learning how to properly play your class is orders of magnitude more important than gear. You can have a max-level character in top tier gear you bought off eBay or from a gold farmer, but if you don’t know how to tank, or heal, or crowd control properly it will not even come close to saving you. Playing properly is something you only figure out through repetition, by experimenting with your abilities and talents.

  18. Deadly Kwob says:

    It’s funny that you link to Eve in the article, because I think in a way Eve is just the opposite of most RPGs.

    In Eve, your gear (ship loadout) is what determines the abilities that you have. Your character (skills and attributes) mostly determines the effectiveness of those abilities. Gear selection is complex in this case because it makes a huge difference in your capabilities.

    In WoW, and most other RPG’s, your character (class, level, and to some extent talents) determines the abilities that you have. Your gear only alters the effectiveness of those abilities. With only a few exceptions, mainly engineering trinkets, gear doesn’t significantly alter your playstyle. Aside from a few simple selection rules, gear doesn’t really need to be micromanaged until the level cap. (I realize that that’s a bad thing. I don’t like this attitude that levels 1-84 is practically a very long tutorial now.)

    • Chakan says:

      I feel this stems from EVE’s lack of “true levels” that determine whether any given character can kill another. Whereas it’s evident that a two month old newbie will lose to a veteran pirate if both are flying B-Ships, the same isn’t self-evident if the newbie is in a frigate and the veteran forgot his drones. This, in turn, means that there is no “level playing ground” for PvP as there is in other games, which is rather fitting for EVE.

      Complexity in EVE does genuinely relate to the depth of the game. The question of flying a T1 or T2 ship to a fight is already a deep one, even if some wealthier capsuleers don’t see it as such.

  19. Moddington says:

    I’m not sure I understand why there’s so much confusion over what the stats do. The tooltips for the stats in the character window list every single thing that they do, no wiki required. And in any case, until you’re in the hardcore raiding or PvPing scene, there is only one stat that matters: item level. Aside from the weapon and armor types, you really don’t have to pay attention to the other stats. The difference between Haste and Speed? It doesn’t matter unless you’re theorycrafting, in which case, you’re heavily involved in the wiki and the forums anyways. Same with the finer points of hit chance, crit chance, and the differences between block, dodge, parry, and spell resistance.
    I’m pretty sure that this is all just a misunderstanding of the role equipment plays in WoW. It’s not supposed to be that big a deal, prior to the higher echelons of the endgame. The choices, trade-offs, and etc. come through the talent system and your ability/spell list, while the finer points of equipment selection is just meaningless fluff until you care about the difference between an extra 0.1% hit chance, and +1 to mana regen.

    • ehlijen says:

      If they’re not supposed to be important until the endgame, why do all the low level items still have all those stats?

      Why not make every 79- level item just a generic +level/x to everything (x is your approrpiate modifier to get sensible values) and leave the info window blank other than the level?

      Basically, if they make such a complex yet visible rules system, there should be an ingame way to study and understand said system. The tooltips may tell you what stats do for certain derived values. But, as I gather, they do not tell you what those derived values mean.

      • Jarenth says:

        The goal, I assume, is to get you interested in what those stats mean, so you get curious and read the wiki. Less work for Blizzard, that way.

      • poiumty says:

        Because stats aren’t *useless*, they’re just not *important for low-level solo play*. The decision between items based on the stats they provide is pretty fun for people who understand the system (yes, those people EXIST) and doesn’t make the game bad, broken, unfun, horrible and all the other adjectives Shamus likes to use. Whether you care or not about stats is a choice itself, Shamus just found himself confronted with a more difficult choice and didn’t like that he didn’t have a reference he could easily adress to either get details on stats (hint: wowwiki) or find out the stat difference directly (there’s a mod for that). They’ll probably implement the addon as a core feature eventually, too.

        Shamus, if you’re reading this:
        http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/rating-buster.aspx
        Heartily recommend it. Used it myself back in the day. Remember, WoW is the top dog partly because add-ons make it so much better.

        • ehlijen says:

          That’s just bad game design though. Here are some stats. We won’t tell you what they mean exactly and we won’t tell you whether or not they are really important. If you want to find out those things, please leave our game and consult some website or install some 3rd party mod.

          That’s bad. It means blizzard basically failed to teach people how to play the game and is now relying on a self perpetuating mass of puzzle lovers to figure it out and tell the next generation of players. They are asking players to do their job in addition to paying for the game!

          ‘WoW is the top dog partly because addons make it so much better’
          …erm. So what if noone made addons? We’d be at the mercy of the uncaring blizzard who won’t tell us how the game works?

          It’s great that there are mods and wikis. But if they’re necessary, that means the game has already failed.

          This just reminds me of how oblivion became game of the year even though it took players to finish the product for bethesda :(

          • Veloxyll says:

            You’ll see sometimes that mods get incorporated into the default WoW UI. The raid UI, threat warnings, the new spell alerts, quest tracking, the Wardrobe.
            Rating buster would be handy to have baseline, since it could solve a lot of Shamus’s concerns (though telling players what less obvious stats such as Haste do would still be good). Remember, in Vanilla, critical strike wasn’t a RATING it was a % bonus. It got turned into a rating for TBC once Blizzard realised that beating Blackhand’s Breadth would cause crazy stat inflation.

            • Jarenth says:

              Yeah, Blizzard has a habit of incorporating really good addons into the game proper. QuestHelper, instance maps, threat trackers, all that stuff you mentioned. All started as addons, and when they became known as ‘required’ or ‘indispensable’ Blizzard decided to just copy them. Man, I remember when basic raid panels were an addon.

              It’s a good design aesthetic, if a bit lazy-looking.

              • Will says:

                WoW is a work in progress, it’s important to remember that.

                • ehlijen says:

                  Not it’s not ‘good design aesthetic’. If it was good design, Blizzard wouldn’t need their customers to complete their product for them. They’d have already thought about that and included all of that.

                  It may be ‘good development practice’ to see what people want so badly they go to great lengths to make it themselves, but that implies that the game is not a finished product.

                  So it’s a work in progress you say? Many companies call that betatesting, and some even pay the players to do that. They are to be commended for improving the game as much as they do, but not for needing player help in figuring out what needs improvement.

                • Will says:

                  There’s a big difference between beta testing and a work in progress.

                  The simple reality is that WoW is not finished, it is constantly being refined and improved and every year we get a whole new chunk of game in the form of expansion packs. The other simple reality is that when you’re working with a game the size of WoW and realistic turnover periods, you physically cannot design and calculate all possible ramifications.

                  If Blizzard had infinite money and infinite time, they could create the perfect finalized WoW with no need to ever change anything ever again. But they don’t, so they can’t.

                  And to be perfectly honest, with the modern era of everything being networked upon us, more and more games are going to be released in non-finalised states with followup patches and expansion packs planned. It turns out you not only make more money that way, but you end up with a better game too.

                • ehlijen says:

                  We’re not talking about content expansion. We’re talking interface changes that make significant amounts of information visible that blizzard initally chose to keep hidden. Why did this happen? I only see two possible reasons:

                  a) blizzard thought it’d be better not to show that stuff. A drastic case of misjudging their target audience.

                  b) blizzard didn’t think of showing that stuff. A bad case of not thinking your work through.

                  Neither is good game design by Blizzard. Neither case should have made it past the testing stage before being corrected in a good game.

                • Jarenth says:

                  Adapting your game to the wishes of your audience seems like good design to me. Blizzard not being omniscient is a tad too bad, but them’s the breaks.

          • poiumty says:

            And now you’re berating a product for not being perfect. Me, i haven’t played a single MMO that took my hand and showed me what every stat does. Not saying there aren’t any, just saying i never saw one. I guess i took it for granted and tried to reference them or figure out what they do by myself – it really wasn’t that hard, in the end – i never thought haste would affect my movement speed, for one. The tooltip clearly said “increases the speed at which your spells are cast by x%”, and did similar things for all my stats.

            I’m guessing it was an original design decision to keep the specifics unexplained so people could look into them, thus adding content through complexity. After 3 expansion packs, it’s a bit of an old-fashioned one, but things have definitely improved from before, back when (for example) spell damage and healing was composed of 2 different stats and had 5 sub-domains, one for each spell school.

            As for mods, they have partly dictated which way the game has progressed. If no one made mods, the game would look very different from how it does right now. But don’t make the mistake of comparing them to Oblivion mods – WoW interface add-ons are just that: ways to tweak the interface by redesigning/changing it directly. Mods that change in-game graphics are illegal, and mods that add content are impossible (well, barring interface minigames). Blizzard has incorporated them into the game’s high-end content indirectly via pumping up the difficulty and revolving it around the assumption that people use them. They are now an integral part of the game – i doubt there’s a single hardcore raider out there who constantly performs well in high-end competitive content without using any mods at all.
            And no, the game obviously hasn’t failed, whatever that means.

            • Trix says:

              We have a warrior in our guild who uses no mods at all (cept a threat meter back when there was no way to tell threat otherwise) and he’s one of our best dpsers.

              Mods are never necessary for anything, especially nowadays (healers even can do perfectly fine with the new default raid frames and mouseover macros), but they provide a way to customize your play experience. I like being able to change the way my bars look, to see when certain buffs are on/off easily, and to warn me of certain abilities. But its not required with enough forethought and situational awareness.

              Not that I’d part with mine. :P

  20. EmmEnnEff says:

    Well, they tell you that a particular item has +A crit. If you equip the item, your character screen updates to show that you gained +B% critical chance.

    Contrast it with an item that has +X Hit. And if you equip it, your character screen updates to reflect that your “Chance to miss an enemy of level ____” is reduced by Y%.

    All it takes is some basic arithmetic to figure out if reducing your chance to miss by Y% is better or worse then critting for double damage B% more often (Or casting spells C% faster).

    The information is there to let you make a rough estimate of what each stat does for you. The problems with the tooltips are that the information is spread out – for instance, it’s not made particularly clear (Or not made clear in more then one place) that damage-over-time or healing-over-time effects “Tick” faster because of haste, or that they are capable of critting (And they weren’t for the first 2 expansions). It’s not made clear that X Hit Rating turns into Y Hit Percentage (You have to perform a division to deduce that).

    It’s not clear to some people that going from 0% crit to 1% crit is (usually) a 1% increase in power, but going from 50% to 51% is a .66% increase in power (In fact, I don’t believe your character screen explains that critical spells hit for double damage – you have to check one of your spell book tooltips for that). It’s not clear that it’s much easier to get 1% hit then it is to get 1% crit (Which is why Hit > Crit).

    The information is there (And if it’s not, some experimentation will get you the answer you want), but it’s not presented particularly well.

    As for stats not mattering till the end-game, the reason those items are the way they are is for consistency’s sake. It makes no sense to have to re-learn how items work when you hit the level cap. Also, since each expansion raises the level cap, items which were only available at the max level 2 years ago, are now items that you use in the leveling game.

  21. TSED says:

    This is the part where, once again, I get to go “EQ has this!”

    Mod2s (which were introduced in PoP, or the 4th expansion, or a REALLY long time ago) are really, really, really hard to get anywhere near maxed. They all have caps, to be sure, but to achieve one cap will cripple your other mod2s.

    Now, what are mod2s? They’re gear bonuses that aren’t the classic hp / mana / ac / stat / resists. Stuff like +accuracy (which makes you hit more often, straight-line bonus) and +crit chance (obvious) and so on and so forth. They used to be essentially exclusive for melee (casters could definitely benefit from the defensive ones like shielding [way too complicated to explain, but essentially super-AC, though I guess mana regen was always around] but they’re still crazy squishy so it didn’t matter for difficult content) and casters had focus effects (% bonuses to things) but now both sides of the melee/caster coin have them. Caster mod2s include spell damage, clairvoyance (mana on spell completion), so on and so forth. Melee ‘focus effects’ (ignoring haste which was always there – a straight percentage increase) include Cleave (percentage crit chance), Ferocity (percentage dual-wield), blah blah blah.

    In short, it’s possible to customize your stuff. There’s even weapons that have comparitively terrible dps but have HUGE procs, so you can focus on the proc stuff and proc crits for good boomstick times.

    In short: blah blah blah I still think EQ is better. I find it really interesting to compare the actual game mechanics between the two as opposed to the generic “no my game’s better / no MY game’s BETTER” ‘exchange.’

  22. Danel says:

    I mostly agree with you here – the way that gear works is very badly explained, and the differences between the many stats isn’t very clear. It’s definitely something that the game could stand to explain at least the basics of during levelling.

    I’m saddened by the number of comments here that seem to be under the impression that what you’re doing at the moment – playing WoW at less than max-level – is somehow bizarre or freakish. I enjoy it too. Lots of people do. If Blizzard thought otherwise, or believed that the only content that mattered was raids, they wouldn’t have bothered putting all the effort they did into the stories and quests of Cataclysm. I totally disagree with the idea that the new content is an ‘EXP treadmill’ just because it doesn’t leave you lost or wandering for most of the time.

    I suppose part of the difficulty with an ingame gear guide is that its something they constantly change, and like to leave open to constant adjustments. They used to have – and some gear still does – Attack and Spell Power, or Armor Penetration. It would obviously been much harder for them to remove those stats if they’d had to change a lot of early quests or whatever explaining what they did as well. Not to mention that the extreme details of it are very complicated and can be very different not just by class but by spec, and in a very few cases specific build. Certainly, though, they should be able to explain in basic terms what things like haste, hit and crit rating actually do, for example. At least explaining the basics like this would help to prepare people for the progressively complicated gearing required at max-level.

    I’d just edit to add – people argue that gear doesn’t matter while levelling because levelling is so easy, but choosing the right gear can certainly make your levelling more efficient. I’d also point out that a lot of people seem to ignore that none of the stats are really explained at all. It’s not necessarily terribly clear that a hunter should be stacking agility, say. Also, the change that made intellect do nothing for hunters instead of being their second-favoured stat.

  23. One other thing about raiding v. leveling, for raiding, the gear sets that are available pretty much will tell you what is best when you look at them.

    Though if you level solo, you will learn a lot about playing the game from some of the variety in the encounters. I’ve enjoyed both parts of the game, leveling and raiding.

    If gear lasted longer while leveling, well … But yes, I felt some frustration when I first started, but the official game forums had solid stickies and I encountered Jame’s guides and never looked back.

    Part of the problem Shamus has, has to do with how much certainty someone feels a need for. Part of it with the amount of google spam that now exists that gets in the way between you and good advice. Part of it is a matter of just how easy it was to pick good gear in Diablo and Diablo II (hmm, mage, staff of archangel …), though there were hidden mechanics (until the very last Diablo patch, trap resistance resisted all ranged damage. Which made one item of quest armor better than anything else).

    • Will says:

      It’s also worth keeping in mind that Blizzard are trying to please everyone, which until WoW came along i would have said is an impossible endevour. The fact that Blizzard have somehow managed to mostly please everyone to the point where they have millions of subscribers is nothing short of a blind miracle.

      • TSED says:

        There are a lot of hateful undercurrents towards WoW. Don’t think for a second that there are legions disgusted with WoW’s take on the MMO genre (which have spilled into a hatred for their many, many clones, as well).

        • poiumty says:

          I’m pretty sure a large number of them either experience irrational hatred of popular media or are just somewhat ignorant about the game.
          Not trying to say it isn’t a matter of taste, too, but when you get something this popular you’re bound to bump into people hating it because it’s cool to do so.

        • Will says:

          There are hateful undercurrents towards everything. The larger something is, the more likely you are to get vocal minorities that make it sound worse than it really is. The simple fact that WoW has over 11 million subscribers and is the biggest MMORPG, possibly even the most popular video game ever, speaks for itself.

    • poiumty says:

      Hey, speak for yourself! I didn’t know what Deadly and Crushing Blows did until way after i quit Diablo 2.

  24. Duffy says:

    I think your hitting upon some different problems then what everyone is actually discussing in this thread and the escapist one. I’ll give you all your points about WoW, while I understand why it’s the way it is, I agree they don’t necessarily communicate enough to the player in-game. But I think they are simply falling into a bigger trap that’s in video-games in general.

    Any game that uses math of some form will always have a ‘right’ answer. Given a set of variables (your stats,gear, and combat options) and a situation (specific encounter) you can always arrive at the best ‘choices’ (gear/combat move use) to defeat the encounter. You may have alternates that also work, but for various reasons they are probably not as efficient. (Whether it be due to the game’s mechanics or just time investment.) This can apply this idea to any video game in existence that has number based encounters (majority of them).

    You can discuss trade-offs, but they are a kind of illusion of choice. You can make decisions based on them, but very rarely does that choice truly matter. They are mostly just calculations that may or may not be ‘best’.

    I think this is a distinct problem with gaming systems in general. It’s less noticeable when you play single player games due to I think two overwhelming facts: 1. Story and 2. Audience

    I personally believe that even a mediocre combat based game can be amazing if the story is good and your choices affect the story. Obviously the majority of MMOs do not posses this, they are primarily about the encounter and how to defeat it. It’s one of the reasons I’m hoping The Old Republic is everything they’re hyping when it comes to story choices.

    As for audience, it’s far less noticeable that your making ‘wrong’ decisions when you play solo games. But when you add a community aspect and throw your playing into the community, it now falls under the scrutiny of the others, and they will inform you of your ‘choices’ and how they regard them. While this may be socially negative, it often points out the buried flaw in mathematical game systems.

    That’s just my opinion, I could wrong.

    TL;DR: Story is king of choice (when done correctly anyways), combat is just some math.

    • Will says:

      A lot of mathematicians can argue (quite convincingly) that pretty much everything can be reduced to ‘just some math.’

    • X2-Eliah says:

      It’s a natural result of it being a computer application, however. Program code is, in machine level, just a type of math anyway (all reduced to impulses and logic gate – so mathematical application of physics). Higher up, low-level (and moreso, high-level) codes rely on maths for most actions implying any kind of change.

  25. Bubble181 says:

    Bored at work, so I just read through all of the comments here -and- on the Escapist.
    It’s funny – in a sad way – how almost everyone seems to genuinely not understand what Shamus is talking about. Even when not talking about the end-game, WOW-veterans still seem to think about raids/dungeons/instances in groups as being PvE, and leveling solo as nothing but a tutorial.
    It seems that a lot of the vocal minority – or the WOW-nerds, anyway – have forgotten that not for everyone a couple of weeks of invested playtime can be considered “fast” or “easy”.
    Playing WOW the way you played Diablo II should be possible. Mind you, Diablo II was spreadsheeted to death as well on some forums, but except in PvP or for bragging purposes, it didn’t make all that much difference what you used. Even in the highest difficulties and the last act, you could solo in clearly sub-optimal gear and come out victorious. There were cookie-cutter builds, and for those there were optimal gear choices, certainly – but they weren’t really necessary.
    I’ve never seen anyone in DII demand you to be wearing at least 2 stones of Jordan and an Annihilus or else they wouldn’t group with you (though I admit I haven’t played Diablo II in a long time :p).

    Because of the multiplayer aspect, I think, people are more demanding of others. As long as you’re out solo’ing mobs in WOW, I don’t think anyone will mind greatly what you’re wearing (though you’ll always get grief, unfortunately). This is what Shamus is doing, and hopefully enjoying…And it’s in this aspect that WOW fails – the stats aren’t easily enough readable to make some sort of intelligent decision.

    • poiumty says:

      The problem with the post above, as some others, is that a lack of understanding on how the game actually works is becoming increasingly clear.
      WoW can be played like Diablo 2 until max level. People will group up with you if you don’t have epics. People will sometimes group up with you if you’re undergeared, too, because the team as a whole counts more than the individual. The differences start with the group roles of each class, where tanks and healers come in.
      On a whole, stats on gear matter as much in WoW 1-85 as they did in Diablo 2. Having the best gear is not a requirement to hit max level, and you can ignore some stats if you don’t know what they do (*ahem* crushing/deadly blow).
      The separation comes with max-level competitive content, which is a hell of a lot more a big deal than Diablo 2 was. It’s much more challenging (read: incredibly hard) and a lot more important (we’re talking about servers with thousands of people here, e-peen suddenly starts becoming significant).

      • X2-Eliah says:

        I might be inclined to agree with the idea you meant, in general, but the way you expressed it won’t give you any favour..

        • Will says:

          To be fair, as with most arguments on the internet the vast majority of the shouting comes from no-one listening to anyone except themselves. Pretty much everyone here is guilty of that to some degree, myself included.

          It might also be worth adding that perhaps the correct answer to “Is gear A better than gear B?”, if it is not immediately obvious, would be “Try it and find out.”

          I know back when WoW was shiny and new and i thought it was the bestest thing ever, that was how i rolled. When trying to decide if i wanted to get stamina and strength or strength and agility or any other combination of stats, i put the gear on and poked a few monsters to see if it made any appreciable difference (quite often it did not and i just wore whatever piece looked better.)

      • Bubble181 says:

        I understand perfectly well the difference. I’m just saying Shamus isn’t talking about the end game. As far as he is concerned (at the moment), the way towards top level is the game. Once he’s there, I sincerely hope he doesn’t start making yet-another-WOW-comic. Which Let’s Play isn’t, but could quickly become if he suddenly decided to also fully explore (I know, I know, not possible, yadayada) the end game.
        Now, in Diablo II, you -could- safely ignore Crushing Blow, or half a dozen other stats. But it was – in most cases – abundantly clear. Crushing Blow, or Magic Find, or Gold Find, are clearly less important than, say, Strength. The interface, the name, the clear effect some stats had at very low levels,…
        For Diablo II ENDGAME, you need to understand all about all of the different stats hidden all over the place. Good luck beating überdiablo ad his ilk without them.

        However, in WOW, this isn’t the case. On one hand, some things have been greatly improved – it’s practically impossible to gimp your character as badly in WOW as you could in DII (heck, for my first sorceress, I started out pumping mana…not a good plan :-P). On the other hand, because of the amount of stats, the way in which they’re presentedn the naming, and so on, it’s much less clear to a casual player and/or newbie, what’s important and what isn’t.

        What Shamus is saying – according to me – isn’t that WOW has too many stats. Or not enough items. Rather, that it’s too unclear what is a primary stat, what is of secondary importance, and so on.
        If some things were better-named, or perhaps better described in tooltips or tutorial or whatever, the problem could wel lbe greatly alleviated.

      • Shamus says:

        I guess it would seem like you’re winning the argument when you ignore everything said to you and keep repeating the same absurd things and begging the same questions.

        But being impervious to information is not the same thing as being right.

        • poiumty says:

          This is a matter of opinion. Being “right” is not the goal so much as convincing others to see your point of view.

          My point was that itemization is part of a much larger, everchanging system and being slightly newbie-unfriendly (think i’ve made it pretty clear that i agree with that) can be justified and, most importantly, doesn’t mean it’s broken. I won’t try to argue further, or repeat what i’ve said, and i’m sorry if i came across as condescending or offensive, but it’s hard to convey intentions over written text.

          Those thinly-veiled insults, however? Those were very disappointing.

          • krellen says:

            The insults were delivered in response to the implied insults in your comments. Your comments consistently deliver the message “You are wrong and too stupid to realise it, so let me explain it to you again, except you’re not worth trying a new tactic, so I’m just going to repeat myself until you get it through your thick skull that I know what I’m talking about and you have no clue.”

            I’m often guilty of delivering the first part of that message. I’m rarely guilty of the second, though, and generally people appreciate the attempt at different ways of conveying the same idea.

            • oo unclear what is a primary stat, what is of secondary importance, and so on.

              If some things were better-named, or perhaps better described in tooltips or tutorial or whatever, the problem could well be greatly alleviated.

              Would that be correct?

  26. X2-Eliah says:

    I wonder if Shamus is planning to spark any more discussions about Wow.. judging from these comments (I fear to look in the escapist section), it’s not turning out too good (well, aside from the activity, which, I guess, some would call good… but it has bad vibes, maaan).

  27. PinkCoder says:

    You know, after reading (and skimming) so many comments here that are all over the spectrum, I wonder if part of the problem is a similar spread of interest in the employees at Blizzard. I have always maintained that part of the reason that WoW has remained so popular is the fact that it caters to many different play-styles. It does try to be three or four games all at once. In order to foster all these points of interest, I would imagine that there are separate teams at Blizzard focused on particular areas of the game. The PvP team may come up with some great development on some new gear and when they bring it to their manager or greater team at large, suddenly a heated discussion breaks out with the Raiding team on how that gear is going to ruin the encounter with such-and-such boss. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of meetings went on when they wanted to develop the changes to player stats that Cataclysm brought.

    All in all, I have to congratulate Blizzard on what they have accomplished with WoW. Yes, it has lots of flaws. I believe that a certain amount of that is going to be inherent in any game that this expansive. There has never before been any game where I could get online and play with practically ALL of my friends – the FPS friends, the PvP friends, the role-playing friends, the RTS friends – all of them have spent some time in WoW and found it enjoyable.

    Although I don’t think we can ever expect WoW to be perfect, I do agree that we can continue making recommendations that may help continue the life-span of this monstrosity. (For yes, I would call a game this complicated a monstrosity.) And I also agree that Shamus is on the right track – either make the gear count for reasons that we can *easily* calculate, or make the gear irrelevant. I don’t even care if the gear doesn’t matter until a certain point (i.e. level) in the game as long as that is readily apparent to anyone playing. And by anyone, I mean even the grandmothers whom I know have started into this game.

  28. Jamey Johnston says:

    I’ll chime in with my .02, I’m not going to quote things, even though I’m referencing/responding to many people’s previous posts:

    Shamus: You’re absolutely right that some more gear variation/explanation as you’re leveling up would be spectacular, especially if it was designed with the idea that it was “raid training wheels.” Several of your points could be applied towards this, and I think it would result in a lot better “player skill” if there was even a little focus on earlier content being more role specific and instructional on choices you need to make later in the game.

    Some others: You’re right that certain gear choices do, in effect, create similar effects to Shamus’ suggestions. However, the effects, especially earlier in the game, make almost no difference (this has been pointed out, just giving credit where due). At level 40, focusing on haste vs. stamina for a tanky character in the PvE/leveling up part of the game, the difference is so small as to be almost un-noticeable, except perhaps in a level appropriate dungeon (which you wouldn’t be doing solo leveling anyway). In addition, this almost imperceptible difference isn’t adequatetly explained.

    My idea: A series of quests with some reward choices that have drastically different stat options earlier in the game (say 40-60 range?) with detailed explanations and even scripted fights to *highlight* the difference would be amazingly cool I think.

    And finally a note about Cataclysm: I really, really, really dislike the Talent changes that force a tree to be maxed out first. This bothers me on so many levels. My favorite characters WotLK were neutered by this change, and I’m still bitter. #1 on my list was a DK build with almost an even split between Blood and Unholy, that my guild at first was hesitant to even take on some of the ICC/top raidy bits, but after going through a couple heroics with them and demonstrating the DPS ability and then a bizzare ability to switch to Frost presence and actually off tank and hold threat they were sold. Now I have to max blood to tank and lose all the unholy stuff I enjoyed so much having, OR max unholy and lose the ability to tank at all. I am sad, so very very sad.

    • krellen says:

      So sad!

      (thank you)

      This next song is called “We Hate You, Please Die.”

    • Klay F. says:

      Part of the problem why gear make so little difference in lower levels is the interchangeability of levels early on. Its likely possible to level from 1 to 10 in about 10 minutes or less. The difference in level strength doesn’t become apparent until after lvl-60, and difference between lvl-84 and 85 is gigantic. So gear for these lower levels are just as interchangeable as the levels themselves.

      Note: I’m talking about general leveling here, not PvP.

  29. Jep jep says:

    This thread sadly reminds me why to be glad I quit WoW over two years ago. The system was even back then more convoluted than it ever needed to be. It wasn’t hard to grasp personally, I just hated the fact there was no clear in-game representation on how some of the more obscure stats would affect my overall performance. Going to Wikis helped to make sense out of most of it, but it’s not something I ever enjoyed doing. It just makes making any choices about your gear more complicated than it needs be.

    It’s a problem with many MMOs though. LOTRO at least seems to be trying to do some progress, and a lot of things have been simplified ever since the F2P kicked in. They’re even planning to get rid of the radiance system this year, so it’ll be definitely interesting.

    • krellen says:

      I quit WoW five years ago. I’d already decided to quit, but my last day of playing with my guild, I won my character’s first purple item. I figured that was a great way to finish (at the time, purples were the top; the oranges were still all-but unheard of). I now like to claim that I stopped playing World of Warcraft because I’d gotten my purple, so I’d “won”.

    • Halfling says:

      Its good to hear that they are getting rid of Radiance. Them using that to make WoW style gear tiers made me quit just before Mirkwood came out.

      Too bad its free to play now. I will never touch anything like that.

  30. Ralph says:

    Shamus I think you may have some rose tinted glasses on when talking about Diablo 2, from my recollection its stat system was not much clearer or simpler than WOWs is now. (Crushing blows? Deadly strikes? Oh and extra chance to find magical items goes through a diminishing returns formula you won’t find documented in the game anywhere).

    Also what information it did give you was often wrong, and what your character sheet/tooltips said often did not match up with the game (Until a couple of patches in enhanced damage, the most important looking weapon stat, didn’t even work on bows, even though it showed up in the interface).

    Also there were none of the tools that WoW players are used to for analysing how you are doing, it was all a closed box, no combat log or recount showing you how it worked.

  31. Snooder says:

    The problem here is that a lot of people are confusing “not particularly important” with “absolutely useless”.

    The reason why items aren’t as important for leveling isn’t because Blizzard hates casual players or wants to deny them choice, it’s simply a physical impossibility to create a solid leveling system where you gain levels at a constant rate and continually replace gear while simultaneously making that gear matter long-term. Think about it for a second. Each gear choice you make adds 1% or maybe 2% to your capability as a player. Each level you gain, and you gain about 1 level an hour these days, gives at least a 10% boost in power, possibly more when you consider the effects of miss rates. When leveling, you don’t NEED to know what the stats do because even when you do know, they ultimately don’t matter as much as your raw level.

    In addition, most leveling gear is very simple anyway. Most pieces of gear while leveling just have the primary stats and maybe 1 secondary stat as a filler. The choice of what piece of gear to wear at that level is fairly easily summed up with “purple > blue > green > white and if you’ve had it for 10 levels, time to replace.” And that information is given to you both by the manual and simple common sense.

    So why have all those stats at low levels then? Why not just give everybody leveling white gear and leave it at that? Firs, because then you wouldn’t get addicted to the joy of collecting shiny loot. Second, because even though the difference between 1 piece of green gear with agi and crit and another with agi and hit is essentially meaningless, the difference between green gear with 20 agi and purple gear with 25 agi 30 crit and 40 hit isn’t. You also have to understand why blizzard puts secondary stats on gear to begin with, which requires an understanding of the item budget and how much weight individual stats get. See, each stat actually has a different value in the total itemlevel of an item. So an item with pure primary stats “costs” more than one with some primary and some secondaries. There’s a whole subset of theorycrafting on the itembudget and how the values fluctuate over time.

    As far as why Blizzard doesn’t make these things more clear to people, the truth is that they try. I’ve got my original vanilla wow game manual in hand and it clearly lists most of the primary stats and a few secondary stats and says what they do. In game, the tooltips also tell you generally what each stat does. The problem occurs with trying to figure out that “17% hit” number for example. But the truth is that it’s not really blizzard that set that number. The number is a side-effect of the encounter design at high level utilizing bosses of 3 levels higher than the max lever players. If people raided under max level, that number would be different. If the boss was lvl 81, again, the number would be different. Most of the confusing decisions and choices are essentially community created and change too swiftly for blizzard to put them in a manual.

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