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that wizard is just a crazy old man

April 7, 2009

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Healers in RvR know how Old Ben felt at that moment as they watch Squared turn from green to red. The feeling of helplessness as they try in vain to protect their comrades from the incoming wave of flame and terror. If only they could be empathically linked to those who had fallen, they may truly understand the demoralizing effect which AOE has on a team. Instead they are forced to listen to the angry screams and watch wave after wave of tanks and melee alike destroyed before ever getting within range to strike back.

There are many damage models in the industry to look to for help in the situation. Some good, like World of Warcraft. Some bad, like Ragnarok Online. While WAR is not as extreme as Rangarok it is definitely tilted in that direction and is following some of the same patterns. Partly this is caused by the mistaken belief that Warcraft does not handle large PVP battles well. The truth is that WAR mimics both games quite substantially in two aspects: oRvR and keep sieges.

In Ragnarok, keep sieges were present during something called WOE, or War of Emperium. Castles large enough for several hundred to compete to destroy a large crystal called Emperium. When it was destroyed your guilds Emperium would then be put in its place and it would then be your turn to defend. This was done primarily by hiding Wizards, the primary AOE class, behind objects which attackers would have to run around. This was then further blocked by a wall of high damage melee such as the Lord Knight and Assassin Cross whose duty it was to pin attackers down in the AOE area. Healers and other support would stand further back protected by other ranged DPS and a few extremely high damage classes like certain Assassin Cross builds, Monks and Champions. These had the secondary duty to quickly (see: one-shot) anyone approaching the Emperium.

Sounding familiar? If you’ve ever defended a keep, you’ve seen this in WAR. The tank wall, the AOE, the kill squad, the healers tucked away in the rear… We’re playing WOE. We even have guardian NPCs like Ragnarok had protecting the keeps of high end guilds. The difference is that instead of a couple guardians (who were about Lord difficulty), you have many smaller NPCs, oil, etc. All in all it’s similarly dominated by absolutely massive AOE abilities. One in particular, Storm Gust was responsible for at least seventy-five prevent of deaths in WOE. So much so that players participating in WOE were required to stack anything they could to avoid, or reduce its damage. Storm Gust hit for about three-thousand damage per second and hit up to ten times. For comparison, most characters had under ten-thousand health. So unprotected characters usually died in a matter of seconds. Even with standard gear giving a total of seventy percent damage reduction characters would be taking over nine-thousand damage total and be required to use potions.

Probably sounds even more familiar now. In WOE only the best geared characters with substantial funds could compete. Good guilds would demolish smaller guilds within seconds and it would often take so long for large guilds to defeat one another that WOE would end before a castle could be taken. This was spoiled by a handful of extremely well geared players with access to items which made them virtually immune to this type of defense. They were able to penetrate keeps and destroy the emperium so quickly that it felt exploitative. There were even bugs involving guild skills summoning your guild behind the enemy’s defenses to quickly destroy their back lines. Funny how much WAR resembles the PVP structure of a game designed around PVE grinding and cute anime sprites.

Then you have Warcraft. This is another game which for a long time was designed around nothing except PVE. Over time that changed so that PVP was encouraged more and more. First in capture-the-flag and king of the hill contests, then in a large scale competition combining king of the hill with castle sieges and finally arenas. It’s interesting that WAR’s RvR can be best described as a non-instanced version of Warcrafts largest instanced PVP zone. If you’d like to understand RvR in greater detail the best place to start is Alterac Valley. The main difference is that while in Alterac players are forced to confront one-another, in RvR players can skip this step. The reason is because Alterac Valley is instanced and carefully plotted players must run through the same choke-points to arrive at either of the bases. RvR on the other hand is open world, so players can simply avoid one another and look for an undefended keep to lay siege

How similar are they? In Alterac Valley you were require to set out from your starting ‘war camp’ then make your way from your controlled territory into the opponents territory. There you would have different NPCs to defeat and flags to capture for control over the area. This would progressively lock down the map so that it was dominated by one side until the attackers reach the base where they would confront a powerful NPC. Upon defeating it, that side wins. Of course, it’s also possible for both sides to rush and leave nothing except small defenses at their base to annoy the opponents long enough to bypass their defenses and kill their leader. Or, a team can turtle, at which point the team with the most kills wins (eventually).

The same type of zone dominance is present. Guards are weaker in general (Balinda and Galv being exceptions), but there are many more objectives that must be managed as well as no lock-out period preventing recapture. Most differences between RvR and Alterac are meant to force players to confront one-another. Alterac at every turn attempts to make players kill one another. It’s amusing once again that WAR finds itself following a model to readily available in a game it so desperately tries not to be.

The key difference is how AOE is designed in these two games in relation to WAR. In Warcraft most AOE is actually very weak and is only truly efficient when hitting a fair number of targets. Often AOE must hit at least three, or four targets to be worthwhile. This can be seen on Mage when looking at Frostbolt when compared to Blizzard. Frostbolt with decent spell-damage deals a bit over one-thousand DPS. Blizzard with the same spell-damage only deals four-hundred and seventy DPS. It takes more than two targets for the AOE to be superior. When looking at the Wizard in Ragnarok the ratio of damage is much different. In general use Storm Gust deals roughly the same damage as Jupitel Thunder. However, this is only true because Storm Gust will freeze most targets after three hits, making them immune to the next seven hits. If a target’s frozen status is broken the damage on Storm Gust easily triples Jupitel Thunder.

There were other considerations in Ragnarok, such as elemental type, but this is much closer to the model WAR is following. The damage ratio of AOE and single target is such that many abilities are worthwhile compared to single target damage. In some cases, such as Annihilate, AOE abilities actually deal greater DPS than single target attacks. In most others it’s worth using AOE attacks if someone else might be nearby, as even hitting two targets makes AOE attacks highly superior to any single target attack. This type of AOE focus is what results in massive AOE farming and the exile of certain classes from PVP, as it did in WOE.

Is that really the model WAR is using though? Here are some statistics. Yes, numbers. No huge amount of math, but this is a comparison for each class with some form of hard-hitting AOE. This goes alphabetically.

Black Orc: With a tactic, Big Slash deals 525 damage, making it Black Orc’s hardest hitting attack. WAAAAAAGH! and Da Big Un’ both deal 262 damage and Big Swing deals 150 damage. The hardest hitting single target ability Black Orc has deals 412 damage, but has a cool down twice as long as Big Slash. The highest DPS single target attack only deals about 260 DPS, slightly more than the alternative finishers, though being channeled it does more total damage. Black Orc needs only 1 target for AOE attacks to be worthwhile.

Blackguard: Monstrous Rending and Crimson death are the hardest hitting Blackguard attacks at 300 and 375 damage respectively. The best single target damage ability, Enraged Beating, deals lower DPS than both, but its total damage per use is higher. However, as its channel time is double the global cool down and it prevents auto-attack, spamming Monstrous Rending is superior in damage. Blackguard’s AOE damage per target is superior to single target damage.

Bright Wizard: Here several single-target abilities are tied at 200 DPS, but the highest DPS attack is Sear at 337 DPS. However, due to cool down it only does 67.4 DPS, meaning the 200 DPS attacks are the comparison points. Rain of Fire deals 180 DPS, while Annihilate deals 225 DPS. Another fun example is Fireball Barrage, which deals 450 DPS and an additional 150 DPS to all other nearby targets. This means even at two targets it’s dealing 600 DPS. In general Bright Wizards need either one, or two targets for AOE to be worthwhile, using a specialized build Bright Wizards can deal more single target DPS through AOE than through single-target abilities.

Choppa: Here we’re presented with a special case with Lotsa Choppin, which deals somewhat randomized damage, but can hit for up to 225 and Git To Da Choppa which deals roughly 200 damage per tick. The best single target spammable attack also deals 225, but can only be used from behind. The alternative non-positional attack only deals 187. The channeled alternative to Git To Da Choppa deals 225 damage, up from 200; however, because they scale differently, with 600 or more strength Git To Da Choppa hits harder. Choppa, like Blackguard, can produce equal, or more DPS using AOE attacks on single targets.

Chosen: While no longer the case in 1.2.1, Rending Blade in 1.2 is capable of dealing 112 undefendable damage. The best alternative is Ravage at 150, but as it is defendable Rending Blade generally deals equal damage over time. Until 1.2.1 Chosen can use AOE attacks against single targets with high defenses, but otherwise require two targets.

Disciple of Khaine: While limited in AOE potential, Disciple of Khaine’s Devour Essence is their highest damage attack dealing 900 damage over 5 seconds, or 180 DPS. Their other AOE, Essence Lash deals up to 225 damage. In comparison their highest damage attack deals 337 damage, but only to low-health targets. Their highest general-use attack only deals 187 damage. Disciple of Khaine deals more damage with AOE than single target attacks in most cases.

Engineer: This is a case where no single ability is able to be taken by itself with the exception of Napalm Grenade, which towards the end of its duration deals 266 damage. This is contrasted with the 299 damage of Gun Blast and the harder hitting Snipe at 450 damage. Both of these do approximately 150 DPS compared to Napalm Grenades finishing DPS of 133. When comparing DoT abilities, the best single target is Incendiary Rounds at 990/15, while the best AOE is Fragmentation Grenade at 935/15. This is a difference of just under 4 DPS. It’s also possible to look at Strafing Run, the hardest hitting AOE at 412, against Snipe at 450. If looking at burst Strafing Run, a 65 foot cone-AOE, deals much more damage due to the long cast time of Snipe. Engineer only requires a single target to be efficient with AOE attacks.

Ironbreaker: The only ability worth mentioning is Earthshatter. The reason is that Earthshatter deals up to 768 damage per target. The closest abilities to this are Grudge-Born Fury and Cave-In, which deal 560/3 and 745/5 respectively. Both are much lower than Earthshatter for burst damage. Ironbreaker’s highest single-target ability is an AOE attack. It actually takes less than half of a target for Ironbreaker’s AOE to surpass their single-target attacks.

Magus: Damage wise this is a perfect mirror of Engineer. As clones (except tactics) these classes have the same ideals. Simple convert the associated Engineer attack to the Magus ability. As with Engineer, Magus need only a single target for AOE to be worthwhile.

Marauder: This class deals roughly 75% of its single target damage with AOE across the board. Requires slightly more than one target (1 1/3) for AOE to be worthwhile.

Shadow Warrior: This class again deals roughly 75% of its single target damage with AOE. The difference here is that through tactics this can be changed using range-based tactics to increase damage, surpassing single target damage abilities with AOE. Depending on specialization, Shadow Warriors can deal more single target DPS with AOE attacks. Requires only 1 target for AOE to be efficient.

Slayer: Like Magus, this class mimics its mirror almost exactly. However, unlike that pairing, Slayer has no answer for Git To Da Choppa. Because of this Slayer needs two targets for AOE to compete with single-target damage.

Sorceress: Like Slayer and Choppa, Sorceress is missing several key tools that allows Bright Wizard to exceed single-target damage with AOE. While Disastrous Cascade is equivalent to Annihilate, without Fireball Barrage they can’t simply AOE as a primary single-target attack. Sorceress requires two targets for AOE to be efficient.

Squig Herder: While Shadow Warrior dealt with close range to increase AOE damage, Squig Herders are able to do equivalent damage from much farther ranges. The trade off however is that these tactics increase single target DPS as well. This means that Squig Herder needs at least two targets for AOE damage to surpass single-target DPS.

White Lion: Like Marauder, the White Lion does roughly 25% less damage with AOE per target across the board. Again this means White Lions need two targets for AOE to be worthwhile.

Witch Elf: While only having 1 AOE, this attack only deals 20% less than their best single-target counterpart, making it worthwhile on single targets due to mastery mechanics.

Witch Hunter: Has a similar setup with finishers as Witch Elf, but also has a tactic which can turn Razor Strike into a better version of Lotsa Choppin. However, with no berserk mechanic this doesn’t work out as well, explaining the lower DPS. Since this is the primary nuke of the tree its in no comparison can be made to their single target DPS, which is the same attack. Witch Hunter can use their main AOE attack single target, but as their spammable AOE is also their standard single-target DPS tool there is no point comparing the two.

If your class isn’t on this list it’s because their AOE damage is low enough that they require more than two targets for it to be efficient. Swordmaster is a notable member of this group, especially when their mirror deals significant amounts of AOE damage. That means that 17 out of 24 classes have AOE that would be considered off-balanced under standard ratios. As mentioned previously this shows more similarities to Ragnarok than many would like.

There is a major divergence however in how AOE attacks work mechanically. Even in Ragnarok to target an area with AOE, you had to have a good line-of-sight on the target. In Warcraft the same applies. In WAR it does not. Many player-based AOE attacks penetrate walls. Ground-targeted AOE may be cast without any in-game line of sight, only requiring your camera to be able to see a location. Blast-radius AOE functions much like player-based AOE, but does require a line-of-sight to the original target. This all means that not only do these attacks often deal very high damage, but they can be used with some immunity to retaliation.

A Bright Wizard can stand on the top of a keep, with the vendors, and turn their camera backwards in order to spam the area beneath them with Rain of Fire. A healer can stand anywhere they want and as long as players are within 150 feet, their AOE heals will connect. Many play-based AOE attacks can be used from behind keep doors to attack players manning rams. Engineer’s are able to attack targets up to 134 feet away due to tactics and AOE effects.

Back to damage, however, it’s important to evaluate the worth of AOE based on how many targets required to make an attack efficient. After all WAR is meant to be a large-scale RvR game according to most. This means if an effect only needs a single target to compete with single-target abilities, it then functions as a force multiplier. A force multiplier literally makes an AOE character worth many more other players. For instance, a Sorceress’ Pit of Shades requires one and one-third targets to deal equal damage to their best single-target DPS ability. This means that if Pit of Shades strikes four targets, the Sorceress is actually dealing the equivalent of three players dealing their best single target DPS on those targets.

This forces some even more extreme problems when AOE healing is compared to other abilities. AOE heals in WAR are designed to heal roughly twenty-five percent worse than single-target heals. These effect only that healers group and heal an amount roughly equal to AOE damage when compared directly against a single attacker. However, each side is able to stack a minimum of three AOE abilities during a keep siege (in 1.2.1 – currently unlimited). This means unless each group contains three AOE healers, AOE damage will significantly outweigh AOE healing. Again this is very complicated because, as explained in my recent healing post, AOE healing by far outstrips single-target healing.

This leaves two main solutions: Increase AOE healing, or decrease AOE damage. If increasing AOE healing, it will make healing trivial in many cases. Decreasing AOE is safer, but not without risks. A major risk is that many abilities do not require adjustment. For instance, while Earthshatter does large spike damage, its associated DPS is only around 40. So while it is the best attack to use in any situation while it’s up, by itself it is not unbalancing. There must be a balance and careful consideration when lowering AOE damage.

In either case, the issues of line-of-sight need to be resolved. I’ll be posting something soon with a visual representation of this, but here is some food for thought based on scenarios in tier-3.

Lost Temple of Isha: GTAoE and AOE heals can be hidden from view using walls. This allows BW/Sorceress to nuke the flag with relative impunity.

Doomfist Crater: Healers can stand beneath the platforms and spam AOE heals on their group. Anyone with GTAoE can also stand beneath platforms and attack players above.

Black Fire Pass: When attacking the opponents flag position healers do not need to enter the area, but can spam AOE heals through the walls. Order has a large tactical advantage as their wall can be scaled, allowing Bright Wizard and Engineer to stay out of LOS while AOEing the flag to prevent it being taken.

Tor Anroc: Players can hide behind rocks, or beneath the volcano lip to AOE other players while avoiding attack. Pillars can be used in the same way when near the Destro spawn.

Talabec Dam: Many buildings, trees and the dam itself can be used to conceal AOE attackers and healers.

High Pass Cometary: The fences can be used to freely move and AOE players attacking objectives. GTAoE is very bad here as they can freely target through the fences.

The best scenario to exploit AOE in tier-3 is Doomfist Crater, with High Pass Cometary as a close second. Putting together 200,000-300,000 damage in these scenarios is not difficult, it’s actually very normal. If there are Bright Wizards, or Sorceresses beneath this level of damage, it was either a poorly played game, or they were beneath level twenty-five. Healers standing on the platform where action is taking place, or inside the fences do not understand how to utilize their heals properly.

As I’ve said before, if a complete re-balancing of AOE and overhaul of mechanics doesn’t constitute an overhaul I’m not sure what does. AOE is needed in WAR for many reasons. AOE does not need to be broken to this extent to fulfill those needs. The level of damage AOE puts out is not helping to alleviate the power of zergs, instead it is rewarding and encouraging the zerg style warfare. Why bother with sound tactics when a trio of defenders can slaughter small war bands while being entirely safe from retaliation. That won’t change in 1.2.1, nor will that trio change: WP/DoK, BW/Sorceress, Engineer/Magus. There was no stacking involved in the first place. The non-channeled GTAoE was used so that Oil could be manned. The healer was never even visible as they can heal just fine while standing next to the keep lord making sure the BW/Sorceress is topped off from the slight damage they deal to themselves. Warbands under eighteen can’t compete with this group of three. That alone speaks volumes about how mishandled AOE is in WAR.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’ll be throwing up some visual aids in the near future. Why? Because the more people who know how to exploit AOE the better. The more idiots we have running around doing this the faster it will get fixed. I mean, I can’t nuke everyone all by myself… unless they’re in Doomfist Crater, then I usually can.

pancakez

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2009 9:03 pm

    Do you think AOE is fixable? Certainly they can tweak numbers some, but the problem with line of sight is the same as in DAOC, where people would make GTAOE, and PBAOE characters solely for keep defenses. If my memory serves WAR is built on the same engine. Did that ever get fixed in DAOC?

    Was AOE this strong at release? I’ve just recently returned to the game and am a bit out of touch.

  2. pancakez permalink*
    April 7, 2009 9:22 pm

    AOE was this bad for quite a while until Bright Wizard and Sorceress were nerfed. 1.2 restored the original impact AOE had by putting diminishing returns on resistances, which were concealing a great deal of the problems with AOE damage. 1.2’s other buffs brought up many other classes into the danger area on AOE ratios, as well as adding two additional problematic classes with Choppa and Slayer.

    It’s fixable, but only if Mythic understands the problem, which they really haven’t shown any sign of to date.

  3. April 8, 2009 8:30 am

    Wow – a post full of math that I understood. Brainz! I haz onez!

    Well sorta – and you’d think I’d be better at this since my job is all about the trend analysis with spreadsheets and pivot tables and such. Go figure.

    I say we take the AOE Trinity (WP/DoK, BW/Sorceress, Engineer/Magus) and show Mythic what you are talking about. Take three alts to R40 and document everything we do with pics, vids and posts. Could be quite a project. Could even gen the toons on a totally different server to eliminate funding/twinking arguments.

    (BTW Pancakez – I don’t mean to offend if I did – this isn’t meant as a reflection of your ability to communicate complex ideas and theory but rather my inability to comprehend said complex ideas and theory)

  4. pancakez permalink*
    April 8, 2009 12:48 pm

    @Wafflez: Lies. I know your stalking attempts combined with your ‘supposed’ inability is just a sham meant to throw me off guard so you can steal my cuppycakes!

    As far as making that Trinity, it’d be fun. The only issue is that sub-tier-3 the dynamic isn’t quite as good. It actually takes until 28 to see the full effect. It’s fun at the end of tier-2 as well though as you have tons of AOE to fling around, though you can’t exploit LoS quite yet. You can slightly in Mourkain using blast effect AOE to attack around corners.

  5. Radishlaw permalink
    April 10, 2009 1:28 pm

    wow long and interesting post. The idea have been raised time after time, but my impression is that after rapidly nerfing then buffing BW/Sorcs they are taking a slower approach this time. Even the AOE range fix (all AOE are 10ft larger in radius than they are supposed to) they do not plan to change before 1.3.

    Class balance is not easy: you WILL lose subscription because you nerf something, even if it is jusified. The biggest mistake they have is having so many bugs and design problems with the highest potential burst class in game: BW (and by extension, Sorcs). If they want to nerf them back to normal, the players feel UP (relatively) and left – and it is what happened after a while.

    Another concern I have is that they really attempt to do a “big”, sweeping changes rather than tweaking numbers.
    As far as I can understand, nearly every other mmorpgs, or even games in other genres (RTS, FPS and such) only do a small number tweaking when facing with problematic abilities. Mythic is the only company I have seen that try to fix a problem by throwing a new mechanic into the mix. While I applaud their courage I can’t help feeling that some of their big changes are not necessary.

  6. pancakez permalink*
    April 10, 2009 4:42 pm

    It’s a gamble. Either you risk losing subscriptions from players who are taking advantage of the imbalances, or you risk losing even more by changing nothing.

    As far as MMOs doing a ‘small number of tweaking’ that’s not at all accurate. Here are the patch notes for the upcoming patch for another MMO: http://www.mmo-champion.com/index.php?page=835

    The mistake is not in making broad changes, but in not testing them thoroughly. Compare those notes changes to these: http://herald.warhammeronline.com/patchnotes/index.php?id=2009_1-2-0

    Pretty similar length. The difference is this: WoW 3.1 has been in testing for well over a month now and still has no release schedule. WAR 1.2 was in testing for 2 weeks, one of which was restricted to low level testing of new classes, while three days of the other were devoted to a large RVR weekend. Essentially this restricted in depth testing to 4 days. Want to know something funny? BW and Sorc didn’t have their AOE buffed in 1.2. 1.2 instead nerfed resistances. The biggest patches thus far have been 1.0.6 and 1.2. Neither was tested a great deal. As mentioned 1.2’s testing cycle was entirely botched and consisted of roughly 4 days of intensive testing.

  7. Phoenix permalink
    August 31, 2009 1:00 pm

    I came here from those “Possibly related posts” and I didn’t read it coz u have tagged it right “WALL OF TEXT”. Put up some pictures/images buddy. 😀
    Don’t take me as a criticizer… am just a passer by. 😛

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