The Wednesday WTF.

09/29/2010

Oh epeen, you are a source of endless stupidity. The idea that a single number, be it arena rating, gear score, kills in a battle, achievement points, or anything else can be an accurate measure of your skill in a game is about as stupid as, well… as equating your worth with the size of your dick. In particular, I want to talk about your kills/death ratio in PvP.

We all know that guy, in every game, that is being awful, and when you tell him to stop being bad he replies with something like “stfu noob i hav more killz than u l2p”. This kind of person makes me laugh, and also makes me want to kill everyone, because this person is so oblivious that they can’t even grasp how unproductive they are. They will lose game after game, irritating their teammetes and being the butt of many jokes by their opponents, all the while blissfully unaware of just how hard they suck.

Yes, a person with high kills and low deaths might be quite skilled. They also might be playing a broken character/spec/item build/hairdo, playing against people that are even worse than they are, have skilled teammates that are carrying them, be playing a particular build that is made for kills (as opposed to utility, assisting, or the like), or simply be lucky.

I’m sure that any of you that PvP are aware of this type of thinking, and the results that come with it. We’ve all seen one side of a battle lose every direct conflict and yet still win the match. Why? Because while the pvpkiddies where busy wtfpwning all the noobsauces in a pitched battle, there was one guy elsewhere, quietly winning the game. With one exceptions that I can think of (a FPS match type), every PvP match has an objective beyond “kill everybody”. You need to capture the flag, get in their base, control key locations, get the most resources, blow up their towers, etc. Killing your enemies is a means to an end, not the way you win.

I’m confident most, if not all truly skilled players in any game are aware of this folly. I know I’ve seen it from both sides of the equation. In the games I excel at, I don’t need to talk about whatever number I might have, or defend myself from boisterous baddies; I know my skill level, and no about of shit talking is going to change it. When I face a team or player that is better than me, I often find I receive similar treatment. That is, instead of insults and epeen stroking, thanks for the match and perhaps a friendly discussion of what could have gone differently. There’s no need for my opponent to tell me how bad I am: they just won, and that’s all the bragging they need to do.

In short: shut the fuck up, the only one that is impressed by your sad little number is you. It in no way relates to how skilled you are, and anyone with a modicum of experience will know that. L2P.

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Some Might Say It Was… Legendary.

09/24/2010

A little over a month ago I was introduced to League of Legends, and I believe the time has come for me to make a post about it. LoL (yes, I’m sure they saw that coming) is a free to play online PvP game very similar to DotA. In fact it is DotA. With better balance, more heroes and items, and slightly improved graphics. Oh, there’s also levels for your account, and a talent tree and runes (think Diablo II runes) and whatnot, but when it comes to playing the actual game it would be hard to argue the similarities.

If you enjoyed playing DotA, you will like LoL. If you never played DotA, the same could be said if you liked running around on a hero in Warcraft III. If you never played Warcraft III, the same could be said if you like building really big units in RTSs and smashing things with them. If  you’ve never played an RTS… who are you and how did you get here?

I can say that I’m enjoying my time in LoL, if for nothing else then the change of pace. Matches typically last for 30-60 minutes, so it’s great if you’re waiting for something to bake, laundry to finish, or any of the countless other waiting games that take around an hour. Free is a hard price to argue with, especially when the entire functional part of the game is available for no cost. If you have money to spend, you can unlock special skins for your heroes or acquire any other aspect of the game without having to grind (you “grind” by… playing the game. It’s really not that bad) out the points for it. All in all, well worth looking in to.


The Wednesday WTF.

09/23/2010

OKAY SO IT’S THURSDAY.

Anyway.

The topic of this week: the death of tanking. For those of you that got into the beta this will be old news, but for people like me mucking about on the PTR… uh… okay, it’ll probably still be old news. So Blizzard nerfed threat generation hardcore. Actually what they really did was streamline threat modifiers and modify baseline threat generation, but so far it amounts to the same thing. Right now the difference between what a tank generates in threat vs. a non-tank is not very big at all. And since the other guys are doing things that, you know, hurt (or unhurt… their… enemies… whatever it is healers do), tanks get left in the dust. This means that on the PTR and I assume to some extent in beta dungeon groups are filled with people complaining about threat and then rage-quitting over it.

Do these people not remember anything before WotLK? I mean, really? What was the single most important mod for raiding in TBC? Okay, it was BW/DBM, but the second most important mod was Omen. A mod that does nothing but tell you how close to a messy death you are. That is to say nothing of vanilla raiding. If you don’t remember “WAIT UNTIL FIVE SUNDERS GUYS” chances are you either A) did not raid in vanilla, or B) are a labradoodle. And for much of this there were fears, gouges, blinds, etc all of which dropped aggro. Threat before WotLK was something that people had to consider, something that was a measure of a player’s skill, and I for one am happy for its return.

Tanking in WotLK is boring. Sure, you can blame tank burnout on the higher pressure to attend, as tanks are the most difficult to replace, but I know plenty of tanks that went through vanilla and TBC without so much as batting an eye, and are now questioning if they want to tank in the future. Threat is a non-issue, and for the majority of WotLK fights positioning is a non-issue (seriously I’ve tanked most of H ICC10 while disconnected); what else is there for tanks to do besides stand there and be giant masses of HP? You get to set the pacing of the pulls, and other than that have about as much skillful input as a hunter’s pet.

I too was initially tempted to jump on the ‘the sky is falling!’ bandwagon. I got into a dungeon with my pretty darn well geared warrior tank, and I couldn’t keep threat for a single pull. Not one. It was pretty frustrating. Further runs I was more successful as I got the hang of the new abilities and generally having to try, but it was still not 100%. When I took a moment to think about it though, some things occurred to me:

  • The problems tanks are having right now on the PTR and in beta are in AoE situations. Blizzard has stated innumerable times that Cata will not be an AoEfest.
  • This is the only expansion where DPS thinks it’s okay to hit a target the moment a tank runs in. Or even before the tank runs in. If they are now pulling aggro doing just that, this is not a problem with threat generation, this is a problem with DPS being stupid.
  • For the PTR in particular, things are not balanced for level 80. Remember that the new cap is 85, which is when you will have your full suite of abilities for tanking. Before then, threat is balanced around the assumption that you do not severely out-gear the content, as is currently the case. This exacerbates the aforementioned stupid DPS problem.
  • Blizzard is still tweaking numbers. The final product will likely have slightly better threat generation for tanks, which is all they need in my opinion. If you think they need a massive buff… see above.

Tanking is a headache right now, but that’s only because we’ve forgotten how WoW worked before WotLK. We’re also going to have to relearn how to conserve mana, not break CC, CC in the first place, and probably several additional things. I suspect we’ll look back on WotLK and shake our heads at how things are done now.

I suppose you can argue that the added difficulty makes the game less fun, but that’s an opinion, and one that Blizzard and a large number of their players do not share. More engaging, more dynamic, and more difficult is what we can expect all across the board come Cata. When the game puts a high requirement on the player, it doesn’t have to give so much weight to gear. Wouldn’t you rather be able to play with skillful players rather than geared players? Wouldn’t you appreciate it being readily apparent that you are a skilled player? Wouldn’t you rather your tank be a member of the raid, instead of that green bar that puts up sunder armor?


The Wednesday WTF.

09/15/2010

Oh hey it’s Wednesday again. This week I will be talking about the fallacy that single target damage is innately superior to multi-target damage, specifically in the realm of D&D 4e (this comes from the 4e forums). I’m going to attempt to keep this from getting too lengthy by avoiding the many side discussions on the issue, but I suspect it will still be a bit of a read. Bear with me.

To begin with, D&D 4e has four basic roles as defined by Wizards of the Coast: the Defender (tank), Leader (healer), Striker (DPS), and Controller (buffs/debuffs and utility). AoE also functions differently in D&D than it does in most video games. Where in video games AoE damage may do 50% or less damage per target when compared to the same character’s single target damage, in D&D 4e AoE damage can reach upwards of 90% of the damage single target is capable of dealing, making the addition of a new targets vastly more powerful than in video games. So much so that it is often used as a preventative measure rather than a truly offensive one: fear of the reprisal should they group up limits the tactical options of the other team. The AoE may never go off, but the fact that it could dictates much of the battlefield.

Two classes in particular in D&D excel at AoE damage: The Sorcerer and the Wizard. Damage dealing in an area manner rather than single-target is unique enough in its role that the community has found it necessary to differentiate them from other Strikers by giving them a new name: Blasters. The goal of the DPR, be they Strikers or Blasters is to kill as many enemies as possible in as few rounds as possible, thus minimizing the damage that the party takes.  The assertion made by some members of the community is that single-target will always trump multi-target in deaths-per-round.  This is simply not true. The way your GM plays and the types of mobs you are fighting both have such an effect on the viability of either style as to utterly dwarf the mechanical differences. Allow me to illustrate:

Situations in which single target DPR is superior:

  • Against a single target (Solo monster).
  • In multiple target fights in which the target all stay spread out to avoid getting hit by AoE.
  • In any situation where the Blaster cannot one-shot their target, and cannot hit more than 2 targets at a time.

All of these cases are perfectly valid, and illustrate scenarios in which a Striker is superior to a Blaster. Proponents of Striker superiority then trumpet this as proof of their assertion. The problem obviously is that they have only considered situations which by their very nature favor the Striker. Sort of like trying to prove that the pen is universally superior to the pencil by only looking at signing legal documentation. If your trial does not include all valid scenarios you have invalidated your trial and any conclusions you may make based upon said trial. Again to illustrate:

Scenarios in which AoE is superior:

  • Against any opponent which the Blaster can one-shot (Minions are a good example).
  • In any situation in which the Blaster can catch 4 or more opponents in the blast.
  • In any situation in which the Striker cannot oneshot their target, and the Blaster does at least 50% of the mob’s health per hit and can hit at least 2 targets.

If your GM tailors campaigns so that you only fight extremely tough monsters that always make sure they cannot be AoE’d then fine, Striker is the class for you. All that is proof of, however, is that the Blaster is a bad choice for your campaign. It does not in any way prove that the Blaster is inferior as a whole. Proponents will then change to talking about how you’re never going to encounter any of the situations which favor the Blaster over the Striker. “Really”, I say, “I come across them all the time.”

“No”, they counter, “No good GM will ever use Minions or allow mobs to be hit by AoE.”

“Really”, I reply, “I assume by that you mean ‘No GM who’s sole goal is to make an encounter as difficult as possible for a party of PCs which happens to include a Blaster would ever use Minions or allow the mobs to be hit by AoE’ as that is not at all the definition of ‘good’ and is instead a suspiciously long list of criteria to meet your idea that Strikers are better and oh by the way don’t you find it interesting that the mere presence of a Blaster forces said party-killing GM to use certain tactics and mob types which one could argue in a run-on-sentence is at least worth the ~20% less damage-per-target that a Blaster deals when compared to a Striker?”

“…shut up”, they say.

I’m avoiding issues like Wizards vs Sorcerers, Nova, scaling, forced movement, cheese builds, Rangers, and the like. However I do feel the need to note that I am aware that such discussions exist, and that most of them are silly. For a look at the central issue I presented here (and likely plenty of the side issues), look on the D&D 4e CharOp forums for pretty much any thread with “Sorcerer” or “Blaster” in the title.

In conclusion, both Strikers and Blasters have situations in which they can shine. Neither is definitively better than the other, and the effectiveness of either will largely be determined by your GM and the people you play with. Go forth, and enjoy your monster slaying in any fashion you fancy.


The Wednesday WTF.

09/08/2010

I’m not exactly a frequent blog poster, as anyone who’s attempted to read this may have noticed. The primary causes of this spotty posting are: I don’t really feel I need to be writing unless there’s a point to the post, and I’m lazy. However, in an effort to produce something that another human being might want to check on, ever, I’ve decided to try making a weekly article.

The Wednesday WTF shall be focused on my two main interests: making fun of stupid people, and helping out those that are not. To that end, once a week I will look back on all the exciting stupidity I’ve come across in PuGs, on forums, and the like, and pick one gem to discuss here. Explaining first why this individual On The Internet is Wrong, and then expanding on the topic in a constructive manner to hopefully improve your game-play, knowledge base, eyes rolling skills, or free time.

To begin: this comes from WoW, in a Heroic PoS run, in which a moderately (~iLevel 232) geared Druid tank with a similarly geared healer seemed prone to dying. After one death:

[Healer]: are you def cap’d dude

[Healer]: i mean seriously

Now, the tank was by no means an amazing player, but he did reasonably well and had enough gear to survive with proper support, so this became a particularly poorly concieved case of Blame The Tank. Not only is the healer blaming the tank entirely for his own death, his knowledge of game mechanics is clearly rather limited, such that I would question the wisdom of commenting on others’ playing ability. Druid tanks, for anyone unaware, do not need the defense stat because they have a talent that renders them crit-immune (which is what the defense stat does for other tanks). Clearly this individual had simply picked up this excuse for tank deaths somewhere and now applied it to any situation without really understanding what it meant, or bothering to try and increase his own skill to compensate for it. There were many additional comments further illustrating that this inflammatory individual was used to relying on skilled or over-geared characters to compensate for his own shortcomings, but that’s not really relevant to today’s topic.

Which is, in fact, crit-immunity talents. Feral druids gain crit immunity though a talent currently, and all tanks are slated to receive the same treatment in Cataclysm. This will mean the removal of the defense stat from the game entirely, which is a much welcome change. “But I like my defense stat” you say. It’s true that having a stat designed specifically for your role can make you feel unique and special, but here’s why you should be glad to see it go:

  • It removes the gearing threshold for tanks. Currently, a (non Druid) tank is the only role that cannot step in and immediately begin their role upon hitting level cap. Under-geared DPS do poor damage, and under-geared healers need to drink often, but a tank that has not managed to acquire the gear to reach defense cap may make the dungeon impossible to complete.
  • It opens up gearing options. Again for tanks just starting out, a DPS item may represent a quite significant upgrade over their current item. Now they can pick it up until they acquire a tanking item for the slot. With the addition of reforging, this change will make gearing up a tank considerably less of a headache.
  • It will be much easier to manage your threat vs. survivability. Current mechanics force tanks into defense gear for all but the easiest of content. Without the fear of crits, a tank can readily swap into higher DPS/TPS gear for most content, and reserve their survival set for the really difficult stuff.
  • PvP will be delicious. You’re already well ahead of the curve in crit immunity, meaning you need less resilience to keep yourself safe from other players. Less resilience means more item budget to be spent on stats that increase your ability to crush your opponent into the ground. You do like crushing fools, don’t you?

So there you have it. Being bad and being stupid is an unfortunate and occasionally hilarious combination, and Cataclysm is gonna rock. Hopefully you enjoyed this first installment of The Wednesday WTF.


Apples and ICBMs.

09/07/2010

There was an optimization question recently in my D&D game regarding defenses and hit.  My investigation into the matter took me perhaps a bit further down the rabbit hole than was strictly necessary or than I really intended to go, but I did glean some interesting information that only people like me really care about and a discussion I wish to weigh in on. Enjoy.

In 4e, the expected hit chance for a PC is 60%, which is lower than in previous editions. In addition, player scaling is noticeably inferior to that of monsters, resulting in an even worse chance to hit for most characters by the final levels. There are many proposed ways to fix this (in fact WotC has been somewhat addressing the issue in the PHB2 and 3), but the one want to talk about is quite possibly the most drastic: use 3d6 for attack rolls instead of 1d20.

The idea behind this is that it’s no fun to miss 3 rounds in a row, and multiple smaller dice summed give a bell curve average instead of a linear. This means you’re going to see a lot of 9’s-12’s, and very few high or low numbers. To the credit of this idea, that does mean that you’ll hit consistently in an encounter where your Attack Bonus +10 is enough to score a hit (based on average dice rolls, your most common rolls are going to be 10 and 11).

After that, it breaks down. The problem, as I see it, is twofold. First, the system assumes you are going to fight monsters with defenses at or around your Attack Bonus +10. Unless you and your GM have some sort of understanding this simply isn’t going to be true. Soldiers, high level encounters, solo mobs all have defenses significantly above expected values. Yes, you’ll be rolling lots of 10’s and 11’s but if those are misses you’ve not gained anything. And with a maximum roll of 18, you’ve cut off two rolls that will hit high defenses. Furthermore, your bell curve means that once you reach the point of needing Attack Bonus +15 (uncommon but not exactly rare, especially at high levels) the 3d6 system actually lessens the chance for you to hit. The only way this system helps is if all you fight is a whole bunch of “average” monsters.

Second, and far more grievously, this assumes that the only metric by which to measure the game is by the consistency of its combat. In fact, many articles went on to lament that they wished 4e was “more like WoW” (here I assumed you meant more like video games). I love D&D. I love WoW. They are not the same game and if you think they should be you are doing it wrong. Saying that “more consistent combat” will make for a more enjoyable game experience is akin to claiming that the suitability of a car to your needs can be directly measured by the horsepower the engine produces. It’s so stupid I feel insulted for having to read it. There are so many facets to both games beyond the RNG that to suggest that it can stand alone, or even as the most significant factor, in determining a game’s fun is asinine at best.